Showing posts with label Delaware. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Delaware. Show all posts

Friday, August 19, 2016

Delaware: Candidate for Clemency Reform

Delaware 105.9 has a great story on one Kathy McGuiness, a Democrat who is running for lieutenant governor. She hopes to "simply" the pardon process "so people get the second chance they deserve."

First, she hopes to add the option of online application. She thinks old school hard copies are just fine, but "but having the option is the key."

Second, she notes, "If you apply now, your hearing wouldn't be until March of 2017, so there's things we can do to be a little more efficient."

Third, she thinks the state's clemency board should be more "diverse." So she suggests a Constitutional amendment requiring the addition of "one member to each county and from the City of Wilmington to add greater geographic representation."

Fourth, she would "increase transparency" by "making the Board of Pardons' website more comprehensive to include information like the number of applications filed and returned, the number of hearings held and recommendations made or denied annually." Wow! Make this woman U.S. Pardon Attorney!

Fifth, she she proposes a Second Chance Job Training Program, where the state "would partner with participating employers, which would provide eight weeks of training to someone receiving unemployment benefits. At the end of the eight weeks, an employer could extend a permanent job offer to that individual." She says:
"What would make our program unique in Delaware is I would propose that the employer would initially ban from asking the applicant about their criminal history, so that they could actually be evaluated on their job performance first, and only if they were going to extend that job to be a permanent job, then they would conduct a background check ... That would help create opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals to find jobs ... creating opportunities for someone with this history." 
Delaware's primary is September 13. See story here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Delaware: Pardons!

DelawareOnline reports Gov. Jack Markell "has signed 1,569 pardons during his six-plus years in office, more than any other Delaware governor." Data suggest the record of previous governors is as follows:

1977-1984, Du Pont: 238 grants, 39 denials
1985-1992, Castle: 382 grants, 17 denials
1993-2000, Carper: 675 grants, 123 denials
2001-2008: Miner: 940 grants, 82 denials
2009/2014, Markell: 1339 grants, 887 denials

Since 1950, "the board has recommended pardons for about 85 percent of 4,800 applicants. Governors have granted 93 percent of the board-approved bids." It is reported that "the vast majority" of Markell's pardons were given to "people with minor offenses" but some went to "criminals with serious felonies. The News Journal is concerned that the state "doesn't track the progress of those who have received pardons" and "has no system to follow whether a person who receives a pardon commits another crime."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Delaware: Pardons and the Economy

A 2013 report found that almost 8 in 10 Delaware inmates "sentenced to more than a year in prison are arrested again for a serious offense within three years of their release." But the chairman of the State's Board of Pardons has the good sense to recognize that “without employment and the opportunity to live responsibly, recidivism might be even higher.” As he puts it, “It’s a vicious circle for a lot of people and one that society has not found a way to deal with effectively.”

One Wilmington attorney, Thomas A. Foley, notes “It could make a difference with human resources if the governor has recognized they they resurrected their lives and has forgiven them.”

Fred Calhoun, president of the state Fraternal Order of Police, however, has a more subtle and sophisticated solution to such basic, undeniable economic problems: “Don’t do the crime.” In sum, eternal personal and State-wide economic hardship are well deserved and, really, the only way, for all criminal offenders, big and small, reformed or not. As the old saying goes: to small kids with big hammers, everything is nails.

See more on pardons in Delaware here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Delaware: Mercy!

The Associated Press reports Delaware Gov. Jack Markell "has spared the life of a man who was facing execution this week for the 1990 murder of his former girlfriend." Apparently, Markell is not on his way out of office either - take note Haley Barbour! The 49-year old, Robert Gattis, was scheduled to die Friday, but his sentence has been commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Under Delaware law, governors cannot grant such commutations unless a majority of a five-member Board recommends it.

Markell decided not to wait for backlash, then declare himself the victim of harsh criticism (see Haley Barbour). Instead, Markell stated publicly that the decision was among the most difficult he has made as an elected official. He has also recognized the pain that the decision may cause to the victim's family (whom he met with personally - unlike Haley Barbour). But Markell said, after "substantial time" considering the application, and praying, he was simply not "free from doubt," and he just could not allow the execution to go forward.

Governor Markell. A class act. Barbour, even more foolish looking! See story here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Delaware: Recommendation for Mercy

The Repubic reports that the State Board of Pardons is recommending (by a 4-1 vote) that Gov. Jack Markell grant clemency to 49 year old Robert Gattis, who is facing execution for the 1990 murder of his former girlfriend. More specifically, the Board is recommending that Markell commute the death sentence to "life in prison without parole." It is also stipulated that Gattis will not seek further appeals or pardons. According to The Republic:
Gattis was sentenced to death in 1992 for the murder of Shirley Slay, 27, who was shot between the eyes at close range after years of physical abuse by Gattis. Prosecutors argued at trial that Gattis shot Slay execution-style in a fit of jealous rage, while Gattis maintained for years that her death was an accident.
It is said that Gattis was "victimized physically, emotionally, and sexually by family members" as a child and that there was "evidence" that he "complained to medical professionals of mental illness and involuntary violent impulses over a year before Ms. Slay's murder." Gattis has also told the board that he was sorry for killing Slay and that it was not an accident. He added, "I was an abuser. I stalked Shirley and eventually I killed her." But Gattis says he has changed and is "not the Robert Gattis who killed Shirley Slay." See more details of the case here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Delaware: Call for Clemency

The following is being released by

Prominent individuals from across Delaware and the Tri-State area today called on the Delaware Board of Pardons to recommend and Governor Jack Markell to grant clemency to Robert Gattis. Mr. Gattis is scheduled to be executed on January 20, 2012 for the killing of his former girlfriend, Shirley Slay. He seeks to have his death sentence commuted to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Letters urging clemency were delivered to the Board of Pardons and the Governor today from twenty-five former judges and prosecutors, 73 faith leaders, and numerous mental health and legal professionals.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Delaware: Denied

NECN reports that 38-year old Rachel Holt, a former elementary school teacher who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having sex more than 25 times in a single week with a 13-year-old student has been denied clemency. She also gave the minor alcohol. Holt, who was arrested in 2006, was seeking a commutation of sentence from the Delaware Board of Pardons, which needed only 30 minutes to make its decision. Holt was said to have been "gasping" after the decision "wept as she was escorted out of the hearing room." NECN also reports that the commutation application "was supported by prison officials but opposed by prosecutors." Holt's lawyer notes that other teachers who have had sex with students have received lesser sentences. See story here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Delaware: Commutation of Sentence

It is reported that Gov. Jack Markell has commuted the life sentence of 64-year old Judith McBride, who fed her former husband a Valium-laced macaroni salad before he was stabbed 25 plus times by an accomplice. As a result, McBride is now eligible for parole. The state parole board and board of pardons both recommended the commutation. See full story here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Delware: Recommendation

The Dover Post reports that the State's Board of Pardons has recommended (in a split vote) that the life sentence of 64-year old Judith A. McBride be commuted to life with the possibility of parole. McBride was convicted of conspiracy to commit the murder of her estranged husband, who was found in a bathtub stabbed 27 times (10 times in the face). If you are the kind of person who is still stumbling and bumbling over the basic facts in the Maurice Clemmons case, or you have the perverted sense of justice that Jan Brewer displays, you need not read further. This story will be much, much more than you are likely to be able to handle.

McBride claimed she had been the victim of domestic abuse during her two-year marriage. But the board also noted that, since her 1982 conviction, at least five others had been convicted in Delaware of a similar crime but received lesser sentences "due to extenuating circumstances." In 1993, then-Attorney General Charles Oberly was quoted as saying, “If [McBride’s] case came in today, we may very well let her plead guilty to manslaughter or murder second-degree, and she’d be out of here by now.” More recently, a Chief Deputy Attorney General has said "the case would have been treated differently today insofar as today it would be subject to a capital case review process before a determination was made to seek capital sentencing,” he wrote." See story here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

How the Media Killed the Commutation

There was a time (in the early 1900s) when presidents actually granted more commutations of sentence than they did pardons. Today, of course, commutations of sentence are downright freakish. Lyndon B. Johnson was the last president to use them with anything like regularity.

On June 6, 1966, Johnson set a new record for the highest number of individual pardons granted in a single day. Johnson broke the forty-three year old record of Warren Harding by granting clemency to ninety-three individuals. But author Kathleen D. Moore notes Johnson was also “disgusted” by “press criticism” of the “large” number of pardons that he granted.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Delaware: Pardon Eliminates Need for Registration

The Associated Press reports that the State's Supreme Court has ruled that Brian Heath, a sex offender who received an unconditional pardon, "must be taken off Delaware's sex offender registry." Heath plead guilty to having unlawful sexual contact with a girl under 16-years of age when he was 19-years old. According to the AP, the court ruled "the sex offender law does not supersede the law governing pardons." See story here. See the court's full opinion here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Delaware: Recommendation

This story at DelawareOnline reports the Delaware Board of Pardons has recommended that 51-year old Derrick Johnson "be pardoned and regain his rights to vote and run for public office." Johnson, who is now a reverend, was "a common street hustler -- pimping out prostitutes, running petty gambling rings and dealing drugs." Then, he was convicted of murder in the 1970s and robbery in the 1990s. Says Johnson, "I'm only human and have not always made good choices and decisions. At the same time, I do believe that my story is an example of what can happen when a state like Delaware provides opportunities and shows faith in a person as they have in me."

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Delaware: An Inside Look at Pardons

An article by Esteban Parra of The News Journal really caught our eye because of the title: MANY FIND SECOND CHANCE IN DELAWARE BOARD OF PARDONS. First thought, of course was, "What? Is there really any such place?" The article is based on 16 years of records recently released by the State under the Freedom of Information Act. It notes that one man is:

... one of about 2,300 convicts who have sought a pardon or commutation from the board since 1991, and one of about 1,800 to succeed with a clemency plea before the five-member panel, made up of the Chancery Court Chancellor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state treasurer and state auditor.

... Most prisoners jailed for serious crimes such as murder, rape or robbery are denied by the Board of Pardons, the review shows

... Of 265 such requests to the Board, 56 -- or 21 percent -- were recommended for approval. Of those, 39 -- or 70 percent -- were granted by Carper, his predecessor, Mike Castle (now a Republican U.S. representative), or current Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.

Those in prison for more common crimes such as passing bad checks, alcohol possession or shoplifting were much more likely to be recommended for pardon or commutation. Ninety to 99 percent of such applications received a positive recommendation.

The board considered 126 cases involving murder -- first- or second-degree murder, conspiracy, attempted murder or acting as an accomplice -- and recommended three pardons and 18 commutations, according to the records. Of those 21 recommendations, 12 were granted, seven were denied and two are awaiting a decision by Minner. Minner has granted the three pardons.

Requets for pardon in Delaware usually come from people trying to restore their civil rights. Governor Minner is quoted as saying,"The decision on whether to grant a pardon is one of the most important of my job as governor. It can have a tremendous impact on a person's life, which is why I consider all information available to me before reaching my conclusion. Our pardons process is an opportunity for a second chance, and I want to make sure that those who truly deserve it have that chance."

Interestingly, a current member of the Board is Sen. Tom Carper (D), a former governor who, as governor, denied 15 percent of the board's positive recommendations (Minner has rejected 8 percent). Former Governor Michael Castle (R) disagreed with only 2 percent, but the data only cover his last year in office. Carper says he has something of a "checklist" when considering clemency. He focuses on 1) how much of the sentence a person had served 2) what the petitioner did with time in prison 3) whether a person accepted responsibility for their crime and 4) how remorseful they were.

As is the case with a recent piece PardonPower reviewed on the clemency process in Florida, this piece highlights the details of some specific cases and the lives of some clemency applicants. See full article here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Delaware: Pardon Concerns

Government officials, employees of social service agencies and others gathered at a convention Saturday to discuss how to change perceptions and practices which are hindering minorities. The groups hope that the State of Black Delaware will become an annual event with forums and ppportunities for public conversation. This year's program was divided into three panel discussions: health, crime and justice, and education. Considerable attention was given to the difficulties offenders have reintegrating into society. Dwight Holden, chairman of the state's Parole Board, and Dwight Davis, who works with inmates as they try to re-enter the community, said the criminal records of pardoned residents are often not completely expunged, which can make it more difficult for them to get jobs or obtain lines of credit. As one speaker put it, "The thing that worries me is we don't have a re-entry agenda." See complete story here.

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