Showing posts with label O. Henry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label O. Henry. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

O. Henry Petition Deep-Sixed

We wanted to inform our readers re the status of our recent petition for the posthumous pardon of O. Henry. We filed the petition on the advice of the former U.S. Pardon Attorney, Robert Zauzmer. We have done this twice before. Once, a former Pardon Attorney rejected it outright. The second time, the same Pardon Attorney did not even respond to the request.

In our recent (third) attempt, we asked the U.S. Pardon Attorney to forward the petition (or the standard summary of its contents) to the President without any formal recommendation. Which is to say, we wanted to avoid the standard default - "no" - of that Office. They are experts in saying it, so many ways. While petitions are not normally forwarded in this manner, such a thing would not have been unprecedented. Not even close.

As we saw it, we would get what we wanted - the petition would be seen by the President). The pardons office should have also been pleased - it could save its precious times, time that it clearly wanted to spend on almost exclusively on commutations of sentence for a single category of offenders. In sum, our request made hard sense. Mr. Zauzmer assured us the O. Henry petition  (or standard summary) would make it before "the President's eyes."

We were thrilled.

What we have since learned is that the former Pardon Attorney took it upon himself to re-litigate the issue of whether or not a president could / should be able to grant posthumous pardons. Bill Clinton granted the first (to Henry Flipper, in 1999). George W. Bush granted the second (to Charlie Winters in 2008). But maybe that was all by mistake. So, the Pardon Attorney studied the question himself (with the assistance of materials that we sent to him, to expedite his decision making). He then forwarded materials related to the issue (and, evidently, a recommendation memo) to White House staff. The decision was then made - between them - that no posthumous pardons would be entertained by President Obama. No O. Henry. No Jack Johnson. No Marcus Garvey. Etc. Etc. Any such applications were ignored as a matter of policy. They were not rejected on the merits.

We hope that the new Pardon Attorney manages that office more openly, honestly and with a greater eye toward precedent, efficiency and fairness, as opposed to clumsy PR ("making history," "records," etc.). Regardless, we will file another petition. And, we will once again ask that the Office of the Pardon Attorney - aka, the House of "No" - will, somehow, allow it to escape the clutches of the automatons.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pardon O. Henry!

The Editor has sent the Office of the Pardon Attorney (Department of Justice) a second formal application for the posthumous pardon of O. Henry. The application and related materials can now be viewed on the right column of this blog. The application contains the following cover letter:

Dear Mr. Rodgers,

Enclosed you will find a formal application for the posthumous pardon of the great American short-story writer, O. Henry (William Sydney Porter). O. Henry’s well-known reputation is such that President Obama recently quoted him, at an annual public event held at the White House, and the U.S. Postal Service has issued a stamp commemorating the 150th Anniversary of his birth. As the enclosed application also notes, the very courtroom where O. Henry was once convicted is now named in his honor.

In your letter of September 20, 2012, you note that, in 1985, the Office of the Pardon Attorney “declined a previous request” for posthumous pardon and that you are “not inclined” to take a “contrary position.” You explain this disinclination as the by-product of a “well settled policy” of the Justice Department not to accept applications for posthumous pardon because “the time and efforts of clemency officials are better dedicated to the clemency requests of living persons.” A casual review of the acting pardon attorney’s 1985 decision suggests, however, that you would be well justified (if not outright prudent) in developing such an inclination or - at a minimum - substantively revisiting his position.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Alabama: Deciphering the Scottsboro "Pardon"

The Scottsboro Nine
It makes perfect sense that, as the pardon power dries up at the state and federal level, symbolic pardoning might become all the rage. Symbolic pardons free no one. They relieve no punishment. They solve no real - much less "pressing" - problem. Yes, they might very well have the potential to make positive, much-needed, profound public statements about law and criminal justice. Pardoning O. Henry, for example, might educate Americans on a point that certainly needs to be taught these days: people can change, rehabilitation is real, mercy can be both deserved and earned! Every person who violates the law is not Willie Horton!

More typically, posthumous pardons are truisms (reinforcing already well-accepted points/notions) or merely making those who grant them feel better about themselves and - more importantly - endearing them to potential blocs of voters who are, evidently  quite easily impressed. Why, if politicians could feel the same passion about real pardons - pardons for deserving people, who are actually alive, and suffering - the world would be a much, much better place. Once upon a time, the Federalist papers argued there should be "easy access" to such forgiveness. That hasn't really worked out too well.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Johnson v. O. Henry: One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Harry Reid, John McCain, William "Mo" Cowan and Rep. Peter King are back at it again. Today, they have called on the President to pardon the late boxing champion Jack Johnson.

Reid argues Johnson was a "legendary competitor who defined an era of American boxing and raised the bar for all American athletics." McCain says the pardon would be a way of "celebrating [Johnson's] legacy of athletic greatness and historical significance.” Cowan says Johnson was "one of the great African-American athletes." King says Johnson was a "trailblazer and a legend."

But, more than all that, the members of Congress argue Johnson was "unjustly tarnished by a racially-motivated criminal conviction" and a posthumous pardon would be a "small, meaningful step toward acknowledging his mistreatment before the law." In addition to being the victim of "racial persecution," Jackson was convicted via "unjust laws."

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Quote of the Day: T. Roosevelt on O. Henry

"All the reforms that I have attempted in behalf of the working girls of New York were suggested by the writings of O. Henry." Theodore Roosevelt

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Update: O. Henry Pardon Application

Background: On September 11th of last year, Scott Hensen (of Grits for Breakfast) and the Editor of this blog (P.S. Ruckman, Jr.) filed an application with the Office of the Pardon Attorney (Department of Justice) on behalf of the great American writer O.Henry (see application here). The basis of the request for posthumous pardon was spelled out with meticulously detail and, in addition, we researched clemency grants in the aftermath of O.Henry's offense so as to get a sense of how likely a pardon would have been granted had he ever personally applied for one (see "Reasons for Pardon" here). Within a few days, the U.S. Pardon Attorney, Ronald Rodgers, responded to our application (see his response here). 

Update: The Editor of this blog (P.S. Ruckman, Jr.) has written a letter of complaint to President Obama. An additional copy of the complaint was sent to U.S. Senator, Dick Durbin (D-Illinois). The letter holds that the Pardon Attorney's response falls far short of the high standard of excellence one would expect from an employee of the Department of Justice. At best, it demonstrates an inability to comprehend the content of the application. At worst, it intentionally mischaracterizes the content of the application to reach a preordained conclusion. Either way, it is the Editor's very strong sense that the application was not given the kind of serious, respectful consideration that any application for clemency deserves. Readers are certainly invited to agree, or disagree. See the full letter of complaint here.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

O. Henry Pardon Application Materials

On the right side bar, near the top of this blog, readers can now view the application materials for the posthumous pardon of O. Henry. Among the items are:

1. The Application (.pdf file) The official clemency application form used by the Department of Justice, completed and filed this past September 11.

2. Attachment - The Offense (.doc file) A statement summarizing O. Henry's offense and the circumstances surrounding the case.

3. Attachment - Reasons  (.doc file) A list of nine separate and distinct reasons for O. Henry's pardon featuring classic justifications for clemency routinely referenced in clemency warrants in O. Henry's day and throughout U.S. history. 

4. Letter to the OPA (.doc file) The cover letter that was sent to the Office of the Pardon Attorney (Department of Justice) along with the application materials submitted in September.

5. Reponse from OPA (.pdf file) The response that the U.S. Pardon Attorney sent within days of receiving the application materials which, oddly enough, references this blog!

We especially encourage readers to view items 3 and 5, so as to get an sense of how flippantly the application was rejected and how poorly the U.S. Pardon Attorney understood its content - to the extent that he even tried. This speaks volumes about what is going on in that office. This story is far from over however. Stay tuned !

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

OPA Says 'No Way' to O.Henry Pardon

The Office of the Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, has declined to consider an application for the posthumous pardon of William Sydney Porter (aka O. Henry) sponsored by the Editor of this blog and Scott Henson (Editor of the Grits for Breakfast blog). The application was sent to the Office via overnight mail on September 11 and the response was dated September 20 (after only seven working days).

While we are not particularly surprised at this response / outcome, we certainly did not expect it to emerge quite so swiftly. To the Office's general credit, the letter did make an attempt to explain the logic behind the decision. Of course, we reject that logic as being largely unsound, but appreciate the effort at transparency nonetheless.

Sign the online petition for the President to pardon O. Henry here.

Much, much, more on this story to follow ...

Update: Big shout out to whoever posted this to their Facebook account and brought over so many viewers and "likes." Really appreciate it, who ever you are :-)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

O. Henry Application: A Worthy Exception

Today, the U.S. Postal Service is releasing a stamp commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the birth of William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. O. Henry. This morning Scott Henson (Editor, Grits for Breakfast) and I mailed a formal application for a posthumous pardon to the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA), Department of Justice (DOJ).

The web page of that Office notes that it is the "general" policy of the Department of Justice "not to accept for processing applications for posthumous pardons for federal convictions." As a result, we have simply requested that the OPA consider the merits of the several arguments in our application, and grant it the status of "exception."

It is also noteworthy that the OPA explains its "general" policy is based on the belief that:
Many posthumous pardon requests would likely be based on a claim of manifest injustice, and given that decades have passed since the commission of the offense and the historical record would have to be scoured objectively and comprehensively to investigate such claims, it is the Department’s position that the limited resources available to process applications for Presidential pardon are best dedicated to applications submitted by living persons who can truly benefit from a grant of clemency.
This is noteworthy because the application we have filed on behalf of William Porter does NOT base a claim on much of anything that is debatable, or that would requires the scouring of historical records, or a comprehensive investigation. Our application is based on considerations well-known and, frankly, beyond dispute -  William Porter’s rehabilitation, and post-prison life as a well-respected, law-abiding citizen. One need only reference the fact that President Obama actually quoted O. Henry while granting pardons to Thanksgiving turkeys last year.

Sign the online Pardon O. Henry petition here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pardon for O. Henry: Prelude

On November 23, 2011, President Barack Obama granted “pardons” to two turkeys named “peace” and “liberty.” The ceremony was part of a widely covered Thanksgiving ritual that has been faithfully carried on by presidents for some time.

While doing so, the President noted that Thanksgiving is “the one day that is ours … the one day that is truly American.” With some irony, in making this observation, the President quoted a convicted felon, one William Sydney Porter.

But Mr. Porter was certainly no average convicted felon.

Though some doubted his actual guilt, he served just over three years in a federal penitentiary in the late 1800s. He then emerged to become one of the most famous, and most loved, American authors. The world came to know Mr. Porter as a prolific writer of marvelous short stories. But they also came to know him as “O. Henry” - a man talented enough to admire, a citizen respectable enough to be quoted by a modern-day president of the United States during a high-profile public relations gig.

Petitioners on behalf of Mr. Porter (Scott Henson and P.S. Ruckman, Jr.) request that the President of the United States grant a posthumous presidential pardon ...

Sign the petition HERE !

Saturday, September 1, 2012

IV. O. Henry: The American Writer

William Sydney Porter (aka O. Henry) left prison on July 24, 1901. While he was there, he published (with submission assistance from a friend in New Orleans) fourteen short stories which are considered among his greatest (including Whislting Dick’s Christmas Stocking, Money Maze and George’s Ruling).

He immediately traveled to Pittsburgh to reunite with his daughter. In April of 1902, he moved to New York City. From his room at the Hotel Marty, he impressed the editors of Ainslee’s Magazine 1902. Contracts would soon follow from McClure’s and New York’s Sunday World. By 1904, he was living on a handsome salary, for a writer, and publishing at a fantastic rate.

After his death, in 1910, one author notes O. Henry had been “the most popular short story writer in America” for some time. By 1916, he had passed “beyond the status of a one-nation writer with his rapid development into a best-seller in England.” Another author notes O. Henry’s popularity was “established” and his fame “assured.” O. Henry had become “the American writer.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

III. O.Henry: Prisoner No. 30664

William Sydney Porter stepped into the federal penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio on April 25, 1898. He was thirty-five years of age and signed in as a newspaper reporter and pharmacist. He soon confided in others that his hope for a favorable appellate court decision made prison life tolerable. One author suggests Porter "lived in constant expectation of a pardon"(S, 154).

Chief physician John M. Thomas said, looking back over his experience with over ten thousand prisoners, he had never known a man "who was so deeply humiliated by this imprisonment." As a result, said Thomas, Porter's record was "clear in every respect." Indeed, there was not a single demerit against him (S, 147). Thomas said of Porter, He was a "model prisoner, willing, obedient, faithful" (O, 66)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

II. O.Henry: Trial and Conviction

In Mid-December 1894, there were signs that there were complications with William Porter's accounts at the First National Bank (Austin). That is also when he "suddenly" resigned from his position as teller. In the background, it was rumored / known that his humor weekly, The Rolling Stone, was struggling financially, and that, on occasion, Porter was prone to gamble.

F.B. Gray, the federal bank examiner, insisted on prosecution over the initial protests of Robert U. Culberson, the U.S. Attorney in Austin, who insisted that, at most, Porter may have made a "series of mistakes" without any criminal intent (O, 46, 47).  Officers of First National, including the Vice President, also let it be known that they did not believe Porter had committed any crime (O,47). So, while Gray did appear before a grand jury, in July of 1895, and dramatically accused William S. Porter of embezzlement from bank funds, the members of the grand jury didn't buy it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I. O.Henry: The Early Years

The following is the first part of a series of posts on William Sydney Porter (O. Henry), informing readers of O'Henry's life, accomplishments and federal conviction. Readers are encouraged to join the PardonPower blog and GritsforBreakfast in our effort to secure a presidential pardon for this Great American writer. Sign our petition here!

William Sydney Porter  was born on September 11, 1862, at  "Worth Place," a plantation in Greensboro, Guilford County, North Carolina. “Will” was named after his mother’s father, William Swaim (a journalist), and his father’s father, Sidney Porter. Will’s mother, Mary Jane, was a college graduate. His father, Dr. Algernon Sidney Porter, qualified for the medical profession by clerking in a drugstore. But, eventually, Dr. Porter was known as a leading physician in his county (O, 6).

With the exception of Will’s imagination, wit and humorous pen and pencil sketches, there is little about his childhood that translates into storybook idealism. His mother died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty. Her own mother had died from the same malady and, throughout his teens, Will was notable for his hacking cough. Many did not think he would live long himself (O, 14).

Friday, May 18, 2012

MSNBC: Eat the Turkey. Pardon O. Henry!

MSNBC reports Scott Henson, "a former investigative journalist and blogger on the criminal justice system" has launched a petition drive Thursday, with the aim of "delivering 10,000 signatures to President Barack Obama by Sept. 11, O. Henry’s birthday." Says Henson:
"This petition aims both to honor and exonerate a great American writer and to call attention to a withering and atrophied clemency process, one which no longer functions as robustly either as justice demands or America's constitutional framers intended" 
O. Henry, whose real name is William S. Porter, was convicted embezzling from an Austin bank, but historians say the conviction was questionable. Porter made things worse, however, by becoming a fugitive from justice. He turned himself in, eventually, when he heard that his wife was ill. There followed a five-year prison sentence.  Upon release, Porter moved to New York where he wrote, but "died of alcoholism at the age of 47, nearly penniless." The article notes:
The most prestigious award for American short stories is the PEN/O. Henry. There are museums that celebrate his legacy — and towns, schools and other buildings named after him, including the University of Texas-owned building that housed the court where Porter was convicted. This year, the 150th birthday of O. Henry’s birth, the U.S. Postal Service is rolling out a postage stamp featuring O. Henry’s face. When President Obama pardoned the Thanksgiving turkey in 2011, who did he quote? O. Henry. 
Henson says O. Henry's case "is an excellent opportunity for a presidential pardon, an executive power held by governors and U.S. presidents that is exercised far less than it was half a century ago." An O. Henry pardon might signal that President Obama understands (and values) "the true purpose of executive clemency powers in the justice system — not just as a symbol but also a remedy for both actual innocence and unfortunate guilt,' (referring to an expression from the Federalist Papers) one that provides a healing salve even for century-old wounds," says a letter accompanying the petition to Obama."

Obama has so far been among the stingiest American presidents in exercising the powers of clemency, but Henson says that this is merely "the continuation of a trend among modern presidents."  See story here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's On !

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Pardon Watch List, 2012

OK, here is our first run of the Pardon Watch List for 2012. Please no betting. Here are some  individuals who have 1) expressed interest in clemency 2) been mentioned in media outlets as deserving clemency or 3) are being supported for clemency through assorted "campaigns":

- Clarence Aaron (drug conviction)
- ACORN (voter fraud)
- Weldon Angelos (marijuana) 
- Jim Black (corruption) 
Barry Bonds (obstruction of justice) 
- Randall "Duke" Cunningham (bribery, tax law violations)
- Edwin Edwards (racketerring) application rejected by Bush
- John Edwards (illegal use of campaign funds)
- Katie Hall (mail fraud)
- Dan Hanks (quite the rap sheet!)
- Ron Isley (tax evasion)
- William Jefferson (bribery, corruption)
- Jack Johnson (violation of Mann Act) not looking good
- Marion Jones (steroids) 
- John Walker Lindh (terrorism)
Chris McNair (bribery)
- Michael Milken (junk bond king)
- Leonard Peltier (double murder)

- O. Henry (embezzlement)  
- Jonathan Pollard (spying)  
- Tony Rezko (corruption) a "spokesman" has said it will not happen
- George Ryan (corruption)  
- Michael G. Santos (cocaine distribution)   
- Richard Scrushy (bribery)
- Don Siegelman (trading favors for contributions)
Wesley Snipes (income tax evasion)
- Martha Stewart (conspiracy)
- Michael Vick (conspiracy to operate interstate dogfighting ring)
- Mark E. Whitacre (wire fraud, tax fraud, and money laundering)

See anyone missing? Let us know. Make your case! We might very well add them! Incidentally, we are not keeping score here. But, in the past, the following people appearing on our "Watch List" have received pardons or commutations: Ignacio Ramos, Jose CompeanCharlie Winters, John Forte, Lawrence Hutchins.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grits: O Henry's Bum Rap

Over Grits for Breakfast, a biography by C. Alphonso Smith is reviewed re the case of O Henry. Smith notes that the common view of the day was that O Henry was "a victim of circumstances," at least if they bothered to follow the trial closely. The bank involved as "wretchedly manage" and patrons frely went behind the counters, took money, and reported their behavior later. O Henry had complained to others that "it was impossible to make the books balance."  Grits also notes that an indictment charges O Henry with embezzlement, in Austin, on November 12, when it is well established that, by that point in time, O Henry had resigned from the bank and was living in Houston! Both the foreman of the grand jury and the foreman of the trial jury are reported to have regretted their votes to convict afterward. See more interesting takes on this fascinating case in the full post here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Grits: Eat the Turkey, Pardon O Henry!

Over at Grits for Breakfast, there is particular annoyance at the fact that "President Obama's speech writers had the gall (or perhaps the philistinism) to include a quote from O Henry in the President's remarks 'pardoning' a Thanksgiving turkey." Grits notes:
O Henry [always] claimed he was innocent, but when accused of embezzling $748 from the Austin bank he worked for, he fled to Honduras, returning to face federal charges in 1898 after his wife became terminally ill. In a practice that wouldn't be allowed in today's TDCJ, he "began writing stories to support his young daughter while he was in prison," moving to New York to continue his career after his release.
After noting Rick Perry's less than "great" record on pardons (Perry granted more pardons in 2003 alone than Obama has throughout his entire tenure), Grits suggests:
... IMO that'd be good campaign strategy for an incumbent governor looking to burnish his positive image in the holiday season, using the authority of his office to seize press attention for a news cycle or two and to elevate himself above his rivals. Why not issue a coupla dozen or so gubernatorial pardons as a news hook, then attack Obama for his Scrooge-like clemency practices and for quoting a Texan during his trivializing turkey-pardon who merits a posthumous pardon himself. It would cost him nothing, it's an homage to a revered and influential Texan, and it rebukes Barack Obama after the President used the words of the Texas writer whose pardon was snubbed to commemorate the bullshit ritual of pardoning a turkey.
To which we say, Bravo! See full Grits post here!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Obama Quotes Fugitive, Felon While Pardoning Turkey!

We thought we would avoid the whole stupid Turkey pardoning thing, but, alas, National Public Radio has dragged us back in!

Yes, the fine folks at NPR note President Obama quoted the great America short- story writer O Henry in his preliminary Turkey pardon speech by saying, Thanksgiving is "one day that is ours ... the one day that is purely American."

And no one laughed! Wow!

Mr. President, pardon O Henry!

See NPR story here.

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