Showing posts with label Georgia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Georgia. Show all posts

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Where are Obama's Clemency Recipients From?

Top Ten States (and population rank) *

  1. Grants: 126 - Florida (4th)
  2. Grants: 82 - Texas (2nd)
  3. Grants: 52 - Illinois (5th)
  4. Grants: 40 - Virginia (12th)
  5. Grants: 40 - North Carolina (10th)
  6. Grants: 38 - Georgia (8th)
  7. Grants: 29 - Missouri (18th)
  8. Grants: 28 - Tennessee (17th)
  9. Grants: 26 - California (1st)
10. Grants: 25 - South Carolina (24th)

* sixty-five percent of Obama's 743 grants.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Georgia: Pardon Transparency Legislation

Gov. Deal
The Dawson News and Advertiser reports Gov. Nathan Deal will sign a legislative bill into law that " forces one of Georgia’s most secretive government agencies — The Georgia Pardons and Paroles Board — to provide the public with some information about its decision making." More specifically,
For the first time since 1953, when then Gov. Herman Talmadge signed the board’s secrecy provisions into law, the board will make available to the public a written decision when it grants a pardon, parole or commutes a death sentence, according House Bill 71, which the House and Senate passed April 2. 
Originally, the legislation asked that "all records the board used in making its decision be made public" but the language was "significantly weakened in the Senate."

It is reported that:
Georgia is one of only four states whose pardons and paroles board has the sole discretion to grant clemency. Other states are Nebraska, Nevada and Utah. 
See full story here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Georgia: The Stealth Board

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the State's 5-member Board of Pardons and Paroles operates " with near-absolute autonomy" because:
They do not answer to legislators, judges, or even the governor who appointed them to their jobs, which carry a base salary of $135,000 a year. The board does not meet in public to consider cases. It announces no justification for its decisions. In weighing the pleas of death row inmates to have their sentences commuted to life in prison, board members essentially are free to base their votes on any grounds they choose. 
One wonder how such an institution exists, today, and what sort of quality control mechanisms are in in place to review its work. It is also noted that "almost all" of the board’s files are classified as “confidential state secrets.” State Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, has introduced a bill in the current legislative session "that would require the board to follow strict standards in weighing clemency and to explain the basis for each decision afterward." It is reported that the measure "passed the House but is still awaiting Senate action with the end of the session just days away." See story here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Georgia: Execution?

Georgia is considering whether or not to make Kelly Renee Gissendaner only the 16th female to be executed since Furman v. Georgia, Meanwhile, about 1,400 men have been executed nationwide.

Gissendaner had plotted the stabbing death of her husband, Douglas, by her boyfriend, Gregory Owen (who will be up for parole in eight years because he testified against her). The Associated Press describes the murder as follows:
Acting on her instructions, Owen ambushed her husband while she went out dancing with friends, and forced him to drive to a remote area. Then he marched him into the woods and stabbed him multiple times, prosecutors said. Owen and Gissendaner then met up and set fire to the dead man's car in an attempted cover-up, and both initially denied involvement, but Owen eventually confessed and testified against his former girlfriend. Her lawyers challenged the constitutionality of her sentence as disproportionate, given that she wasn't there when Owen killed her husband, and yet Owen will eventually be eligible for parole. But Georgia's Supreme Court voted 5-2 Monday to deny her motion, citing Owen's testimony that she pushed for murder rather than divorce so that she could get her husband's insurance money
It is said that Gissendaner "eventually took responsibility" and, today - her clemency application argues - she has been thoroughly "rehabilitated." But, her lawyers contest that many corrections employees are not willing to provide "overwhelmingly positive testimony" for fear that, if they speak up, there will be "retaliation." Says the AP:
Her clemency petition already included testimonials from dozens of spiritual advisers, inmates and prison staff who described a seriously damaged woman transformed through faith behind bars. She has shown remorse and provided hope to struggling inmates while helping guards maintain control, they said. "The spiritual transformation and depth of faith that Ms. Gissendaner demonstrates and practices is a deep and sincere expression of a personal relationship with God," Prison chaplain Susan Bishop wrote. 
Her former husband's parents and sister say they want the execution to go forward. See full story here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Georgia: No Mercy?

Warren Lee Hill shot his 18 year old girlfriend eleven times and killed her, in 1985. There followed a life-sentence. Four years later later, in prison, Hill murdered his cellmate with a board and nails. Now he is set to be executed in Georgia.

"Human rights groups" and other say his "intellectual disability" disqualify him from execution. They note that Lee has an IQ of "approximately 70" and the "emotional capacity of a young boy." The Supreme Court, of course, has ruled that executing intellectually disabled individuals violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The hitch that the Court's decision "allows states to define intellectual disability." CNN reports that Georgia operationalizes the concept as proof of mental impairment "beyond a reasonable doubt." This is said to be the "strictest standard in any jurisdiction in the nation." According to CNN:
... Hill also has the support of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the Georgia NAACP and former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter. The victim's family and former jurors have also expressed support for mercy in Hill's case, saying they weren't given the option of life without parole when sentencing him to death. Kammer said seven doctors agree that his client is intellectually disabled, including three doctors for the state who initially evaluated Hill and said he didn't meet Georgia's standard. Kammer said those doctors have since signed an affidavit admitting they felt rushed during Hill's examination and now believe he does meet the standard for "intellectually disabled." 
Hill's case was presented before the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles which says it will "make a decision prior to the scheduled execution," which is set for 7 p.m. tonight. See story here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Georgia: Clemency in Question

The Gainesville Times reports that the "silence" of the five-member State Board of Pardons and Paroles on the July 10 clemency it granted a death-row inmate "has stirred strong emotions in North Georgia, with ripple effects possibly leading to the doors of the 2015 General Assembly."

 A District Attorney reports that, in the clemency hearing he participated in, board members seemed focused on the fact that an “equally culpable” co-defendant did not get the death penalty.

A spokeswoman for the Governor notes that there is "a healthy distance" between the governor and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles as "the only role the governor plays in this whole process is the ability to appoint board members subject to confirmation by the state Senate."

The Times observes that state’s Open Records Act "exempts documents related to 'the deliberations and voting of the state Board of Pardons and Paroles' and [the] board may close a meeting held for the purpose of receiving information or evidence for or against clemency or in revocation proceedings if it determines that the receipt of such information or evidence in open meeting would present a substantial risk of harm or injury to a witness.”

See full story here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Georgia: Mercy Denied. Execution Halted

52 year-old Warren Lee Hill was serving a out a life sentence (for murdering his girlfriend) when he was convicted of murdering a fellow inmate (by beating him to death). Hill was recently scheduled to die by lethal injection, after being denied clemency by the State's Board of Pardons and Paroles. The State's Supreme Court also denied a request for a stay of execution. However, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has halted the execution, in part, because Hill's attorneys argue that he has "mental retardation."  Indeed, the New York Times Hill has an IQ of 70. See full story here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Georgia: Call for Clemency

The Courier Herald contains an editorial calling on the State's Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute the sentence of Warren Hill, who is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Wednesday. Hill, who has an IQ of 70, is guilty of murdering his girlfriend.The piece notes:
Nephew and family spokesperson Richard Handspike has written a detailed affidavit on behalf of his family noting that at no time was his family asked for victim impact statements or even informed of Hill’s trial proceedings. He notes that the family does “not want Mr. Hill to be executed, and we believe a sentence of life without the possibility of parole is an appropriate and just resolution for this case and for us as the family of Joseph Handspike.” 
But it also argues:
At the end of the day, justice is not about carrying out the maximum sentence possible. It is about balancing the needs of a society and the rights of the victim. Georgia gains nothing, and the victim’s family appears to be further harmed, if this execution is allowed to go forward. If victim’s rights are to matter when the family wants death, then they should also matter when a family wants clemency. 
See full editorial here.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Georgia: Commutation of Sentence!

It is reported the Georgia pardons board has "made the rare decision" to spare the life of a condemned man set to die this week for a 1991 murder. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has commuted the death sentence of Daniel Greene to life in prison without parole. It is also reported that it is only the fourth time the board has commuted a death sentence since 2002. See full story here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Georgia: Calling on ... the President?

UPI announces that the NAACP is considering asking President Obama to violate the U.S. Constitution by granting clemency to an Troy Davis convicted of a state crime, who has exhausted all other appeals. And, hey, why not? But, there is humble recognition that such a request is a "long shot." Indeed. The President has a hard enough time using the power constitutionally, in petty cases, much less in true the spirit of checks and balances! See story here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Georgia: Davis Denied

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the State Board of Pardons and Paroles has rejected a request to to commute the death sentence of 42-year-old Troy Anthony Davis. Davis is now scheduled to be executed at 7 pm, Wednesday, by lethal injection. It is the fourth time that he has been scheduled since being convicted of a murder, which was committed over two decades ago! The Board spent an entire day listening to Davis' supporters, prosecutors and relatives of the victim. Davis' attorney says it is the "wrong decision" and suspects the other side "just brow beat" the members of the Board. Notably, Georgia does NOT give the governor the authority to commute a sentence of someone about to be executed. Only the Board has the power to grant such a request, and it has done so only three times in the last decade. See story here and here

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Georgia: Troy Davis. End Game

The Washington Post reports that a "last-minute bid" to stop the execution of Troy Davis has resulted in a rally of religious leaders "in previously unseen numbers." Indeed, it is reported that "more than 3,000 religious leaders from all 50 states" have signed a letter "urging" State's Board of Pardons to consider “developments that cast serious doubt on Davis’ guilt.” Davis was convicted for the 1989 shooting of a police officer. But it is said that seven out of the nine witnesses against him have since "recanted" or "contradicted" themselves. Davis' execution has been delayed three times already, for the purposes of considering additional evidence. See Post story here.

Click here to read Judge William T. Moore's opinion rejecting the argumentation of Davis' lawyers which says, among other things:
Not all recantations are created equal; a witness may recant only a portion of their testimony or the witness may recant in a manner that is not credible. To hear Mr. Davis tell it, this case involves credible, consistent recantations by seven of nine state witnesses. However, this vastly overstates his evidence.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Georgia: A Strict, But Forgiving State

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has a story on clemency in Georgia. It notes that, currently, there are more than 2,000 "pardon and restoration-of-rights applications pending" before the State's five-person Board of Pardons and Paroles." Each Board member is appointed by the governor and serves 7-year terms. The article says the State has "one of the highest incarceration rates in the world," but it is also "a forgiving state."

Over the last six years, about 1,600 felons have asked the state for forgiveness annually. On average, about 38 percent of requests have been granted. In fiscal year 2010 alone, 561 pardons were granted. Normally, there is a five-year waiting period after the completion of sentence and three letters of recommendation are required. See story here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Congressman With Too Many Wives

C.C. Bowen was a member of the United States House of Representatives from the State of South Carolina. He was born Christopher Columbus Bowen in Providence, Rhode Island, but the family moved to Georgia when he was eighteen years old. There, he farmed, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1862. He actually practiced law in Charleston before he decided to enlist in the Confederate Army.

The Biographical Directory of the United States Congress simply notes Bowen “served throughout the war as a captain in the Coast Guard.” But authors Jane H. Pease and William H. Pease observe Bowen forged the signature of a commanding officer, one Colonel William P. White, on an extended leave pass in order to go on a gambling binge. After his capture, Bowen was court-martialed, stripped of his rank and dishonorably discharged. In the spirit of calculated revenge, Bowen attempted to arrange for the murder of the officer that had caused him such grief. Thus, one author may have been prone to understatement when he wrote that Bowen was "a mischievous fellow who would stop at nothing in trying to accomplish his purpose." But the cover up of the murder for hire scheme was not done well. Bowen and the private who actually did the shooting were soon arrested. As fate would have it, Federal (Northern) troops arrived in Charleston and had all prisoners released!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Georgia: Another Not So Shocking Pardon / Parole Story

By the time she was eighteen years old, in 1961, Rita Underwood was a frequent run away. When she added "larceny of an auto" to her resume, she found herself working on a one-to-five year sentence at Georgia State Penitentiary. Where would Mitt Romney, or the recent critics of Mike Huckabee have you think this story will go?

Underwood was paroled after just four months and she then sought, and won, a full pardon from Governor Jimmy Carter. The typewriter produced document declared that she had "lived the life of a law-abiding citizen before and since" her conviction and was "fully rehabilitated" to the "satisfaction" of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Georgia: Rejection

The Macon Telegraph reports that the State's Board of Pardons and Paroles has rejected the clemency application of William Mark Mize, a "white supremacist" who is to be executed next week. Almost fifteen years ago, Mize shot and killed one Eddie Tucker, who was attempting to become a member of the National Vastilian Aryan Party. Mize's lawyers have complained that the State introduced "inflammatory, irrelevant evidence" about their client's racist beliefs in order to prejudice the jury. See story here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Georgia: Rejection

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the State Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied the clemency application of Robert Newland, who will be put to death this evening. Newland was convicted of the 1986 murder of a neighbor who refused his sexual advances. He used a knife in the killing and was drunk at the time. See story here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Georgia: Sharpton on Davis

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that "civil rights activist" Al Sharpton has visited Troy Anthony Davis and has found the condemned man “surprisingly upbeat.” Says Sharpton:
“If you have this kind of wide array of people who don’t agree on much, but who believe that clemency is needed in this case, that should impress upon [the Georgia State Pardons and Parole Board] to give him another opportunity to show that there is not reasonable doubt.”
But a spokeswoman for the State's Pardons and Parole Board - which has considered clemency applications twice - says there will be no last-minute clemency this Tuesday, when Davis is to be executed for the murder of a policeman. Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and the NAACP are planning a "rally" in front of the State Capitol. Davis is also supported by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, Pope Benedict XVI and Desmond Tutu. See story here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Georgia: Mercy for Troy Davis!

"The citizens of Georgia should demand the highest standards of proof when our legal system condemns on our behalf a man or woman to die." So says former Governor and U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Carter is now asking the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to reverse itself and grant clemency to Troy Anthony Davis, who was convicted for murdering a police officer. Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, "a strong believer in the death penalty," is also calling for a commutation of sentence. See story here and here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Georgia: Rejection

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports the five-member State Board of Pardons and Paroles has denied clemency for convicted killer Jack Alderman. As a result, the 57-year old who has been sitting on "death row" for over thirty years will be executed this evening, at 7 p.m. See story here.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Alderman's execution would be the 21st of 2008 - the others being:

1. William Lynd, GA
2. Earl Berry, MS
3. Kevin Green, VA
4. Curtis Osborne, GA
5. David Hill, SC
6. Karl Chamberlain, TX
7. Terry Short, OK
8. James Reed, SC
9. Robert Yarbrough, VA
10. Mark Schwab, FL
11. Carlton Akee Turner, TX
12. Kent Jermaine Jackson, VA
13. Dale Leo Bishop, MS
14. Derrick Sonnier, TX
15. Christopher Emmett, VA
16. Larry Davis, TX
17. Jose Medellin, TX
18. Heliberto Chi, TX
19. Leon Dorsey, TX
20. Michael Rodriguez, TX

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