Showing posts with label South Dakota. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Dakota. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

South Dakota: Jurassic Injustice?

Jurassic Felon?
Aberdeen reports that State legislators believe the conviction of "dinosaur hunter" Peter Larson in the 1990s was an “injustice.” Indeed, the State's House of Representatives approved a resolution 67-2 which requests that President Obama pardon Mr. Larson.

Good luck with that!

Peter Larson and his team found a "nearly complete" Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in 1990. They had permission from the rancher to dig and gave him $5,000 for the discovery.They then nicknamed the T-Rex "Sue" and transferred her to the Black Hills Institute. Here is what CNN had to say about the FBI raid and Larson's arrest:
In November 1993, a federal grand jury returned a 39-count indictment containing 153 charges against Peter Larson and five others linked to the Black Hills Institute, including Wentz and Larson's brother, Neal. The 153 charges in the indictment included fossil theft, money laundering, and false statements to government agencies. None of the charges were directly related to Sue. In fact, during the trial, the court instructed both sides and all witnesses to avoid discussing the T-Rex. In the end, [the land owner] Williams made $7.6 million from the eventual auction of Sue, who was put on display at Chicago's Field Museum -- and Peter Larson served 18 months in federal prison for customs violations unrelated to the T-Rex.
Now, one South Dakota legislator describes Larson as “an exemplary citizen.” Another says, "He’s a great guy and he just got railroaded into this.” See story here.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

South Dakota: Sensible Reform ! Feds Take Notice !

The Rapid City Journal reports persons "guilty of a misdemeanor or petty offense that didn’t involve violence are now able to clear their record faster and more easily" because of changes made by the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. More specifically, the Board (which has been facing a backlog of cases) has eliminated two steps in the process:
First, it allows certain offenders to bypass the requirements of a pre-screening by two board members, who then make a recommendation to the full board. Second, those offenders may skip a personal appearance before the full board. 
The resulting process generally takes "30 to 60 days" as opposed to "six to eight months." Pat Pardy, a lawyer for the state Department of Corrections, says the purpose of the changes is to allow people to restore their records for employment purposes, such as in financial positions, and for people whose criminal records prevent travel outside the United States, such as to Canada.

We wonder if the federal clemency process could benefit from a similar change in rules and regulations for processing applications. Almost half of the persons pardoned by President Obama, for example, committed crimes so minor that no jail time was served. Yet, on average, it has taken applicants (with and without prison sentences) over four years for applications to be reviewed and granted. Why can't the DOJ created a separate process, perhaps without so many layers of bureaucracy, for minor / non-violent offenses?

See story here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

South Dakota: Campaign Commutation Controversy

With a Republican primary weeks away, a "negative attack ad" has been released in a U.S. Senate race by Annette Bosworth. The ad takes former Governor Mike Rounds to task for commuting the life sentence of one Joaquin Ramos to 150 years. Ramos killed his girlfriend and an unborn child (see Bosworth's ad here)

“Bosworth’s ad is lie,” responds the Rounds for Senate Campaign which notes 1) Rounds did not actually meet the victim’s family until after the commutation - which was unanimously recommended by the State's Parole Board and 2) After meeting with the family, Rounds wrote the following to the Board: “Based on the additional information that has been shared with me, my recommendation to the Board is parole not be granted to Mr. Ramos.”

But, it is reported, "Bosworth is standing by her ad"
“Mike Rounds is an irresponsible liar. Mike Rounds is the only person responsible for Ramos ever coming up for parole.” 
Which strikes us as a kind of witless - and perhaps indicative - response to very specific, substantive, powerful criticism. Indeed, we say, shame on Ms. Bosworth for misrepresenting the clemency process simply to make cheap political points. Disagreeing with the substance of a clemency decision is fine by us. But misleading voters in order to drag them into an arena where the potential for fabricated controversy is already way too high is a poor excuse for campaigning.

The commutation was unanimously recommended by the Board. That is no small thing. It - reportedly - makes Ramos eligible for parole, from the same Board, at some point in the future. If Bosworth has a problem with the State's process for clemency and parole, so be it. Sound off. Produce the proposals.

Otherwise, a better projection of honesty and integrity in public communications are preferable for voters interested in assessing a candidate's future behavior, in office! See more details on this story here and here

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

South Dakota: Bill Gives Victims a Voice

The Rapid City Journal reports that a bill that would "give victims the opportunity to comment on a prison inmate's request for clemency" has made it through the State's House of Representatives. HB 1021 gives victims "the right to provide written comments at clemency hearings with the Board of Pardons and Paroles and written comments when clemency is considered by the governor." It passed in the chamber by a vote of 66-0. The right to provide such comments extends to parole hearings with the board and consideration of sentence commutations by the governor. See full story here.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

South Dakota: A Look Inside the Clemency Process

Gov. Dennis Daugaard says the clemency power is one aspect of his job that is "very different.” Dave Nelson, the chairman of State's Board of Pardons and Paroles agrees, noting that that "Even minor convictions can keep people from advancing professionally. It’s a huge deal.” Daugaard says it is "sobering" to review each and every clemency applications and notes poor judgment could result in the release of dangerous persons. So, he considers the severity of the crime and the length of time that has passed.  He and the Board also prefer face-to-face hearings with pardon applicants. Three of its nine members are appointed by the governor, three by the attorney general and three by the Supreme Court.
See story here.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

South Dakota: 16 Pardons, 275 Commutations of Sentence!

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard has issued 16 pardons which result in the "sealing of arrest, trial and conviction records." Although those documents are kept by state investigators. Among the offenses addressed were: drunken driving, selling or possessing drugs, petty theft, grand theft, burglary, forgery and assault. It is reported that "many" of the pardons were for "convictions that occurred more than a decade ago." Daugaard is also reported to have issued commutations "that reduced prison sentences by up to 90 days for nearly 275 inmates." See full story here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Long-Forgotten Unforgettable Father Feinler

In June of 1921, the New York Times took Warren Harding to task for his pardon of former military Chaplain Franz J. Feinler. Feinler, who lived in South Dakota but was born in Germany, entered into service with the Army in 1909 as a Roman Catholic chaplain. He achieved the rank of Captain in the 13th Infantry and served overseas in 1917.

But General Pershing sent Feinler home and the Captain/chaplain was charged with having uttered “treasonable language” and having “endeavored to dissuade men in the army from taking part in the war against Germany.” Among eighteen specifications considered by a military court, Feinler was said to have justified the sinking of the Lusitania and the execution of a female British spy (Miss Edith Cavell) by the Germans. He was also accused of having uttered "disrespectful and contemptuous language" against Woodrow Wilson - ah, those were the days, eh? In 1918, Feinler was court martialed in Honolulu and sentenced to fifteen years at hard labor, a sentence that was then approved by the President.

But Father Feinler’s sentence was later reduced to four years by the War Department. In May of 1920, he was released on parole from the penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Secretary of War John W. Weeks then recommended his pardon. So, Feinler went from a fifteen-year sentence approved by President Wilson to a prison sentence of less than three years and a full and complete pardon from Warren Harding.

A Times Editorial described Feinler’s pardon as generally “beyond comprehension.” It suggested “professional politicians” might have understood Harding’s actions, but “nobody else” would. For that reason, the Times boldly predicted President Harding and Secretary Weeks would soon “discover” that a “good many people” disagreed with them. And the number of protestations would be “vastly larger than that of the people who [thought] what they did was wise.” The Times argued the “liberation of a criminal” like Feinler would do little to win or retain votes. But such pardons are “sure” to “cost the loss of a lot of them.”

Thursday, November 4, 2010

South Dakota: 10 Pardons!

Gov. Mike Rounds has followed the recommendations of the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles and granted executive clemency ten individuals. Among the offenses committed were grand theft (1984), second-offense petty theft (1996), simple assault (1993), resisting arrest and underage consumption (2006), disorderly conduct (1994), driving while intoxicated (1995), simple assault and violation of a protection order (2002) and vandalism (2002). See details here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

South Dakota: Pardon (Regular and Huckabee'd Version)


Gov. Mike Rounds has pardoned Tiffany Klapperich, who was sentenced to 180 days in jail in 2006 for a bar fight. Klapperich was also ordered to pay costs and restitution for a pair of glasses. The governor's press secretary says that he (Rounds) "spends an incredible amount of time considering every pardon request ... and even makes calls on his own to settle any questions he may have." He also does a great deal of "soul searching." See story here.


Today, Governor Mike Rounds unilaterally pardoned a violent criminal, charged with a physical assault in public. The governor gave no specific reason for directly contradicting the decision making of judges and prosecutors in the criminal courts of South Dakota, but a spokesperson did make reference to what appears to be some kind of new-age spiritual / religious practice of "soul searching." Whatever the case may be, Rounds is solely responsible for anything else that goes wrong in the recipient's life for at least the next ten years!

Monday, May 18, 2009

South Dakota: Pardon, At Last reports that a man who spent seven years in prison "for a crime he didn't commit" has "finally" received a pardon from Governor Rounds. Irvin Schoenwetter was convicted of raping his 8-year-old stepsister and served time in prison until 1995. Afterward, he was forced to register as a "sex offender." The stepsister recanted her story in 2000, however, and, almost a decade later, a pardon has finally followed. See story here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

South Dakota: 25 Commutations

The Hot Springs Star reports that Governor Mike Rounds has "commuted the sentences for 205 inmates in the state prison system for their work on community service or other special project, of the completion of their GED or firefighter certification." See story here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

South Dakota: Pardon Us. We're Otta Here

Jim Sheridan and Ted Pins are longtime members of the state Board of Pardons and Parole. But it is now reported that they are resigning their positions out of "frustration" with respect to the inaction of Gov. Mike Rounds. The report notes at least 38 recommendations for clemency have been sent to the governor's desk since 2004 that have not yet been acted upon. Says Sheridan:
People's lives are being hung out to dry because he won't look at them. I don't know if it's the governor or some of the people around him. But I can't imagine why he isn't acting on this stuff.
Even worse, the Governor has indicated that he might not even get to some of the 38 requests until 2010. Says Pins:
If it's going to take that long, then reject them, deny them, but let them get on with their lives. I mean, I love what I do. I'm not leaving because I'm frustrated with anything I do on that board. My frustration is with the governor and his lack of response on our recommendations. I don't know why he won't make a decision. It just requires common sense and a little courage.

But the Governor explains that "sometimes" he must "deliberate longer than other people might like me." It is reported that Rounds has approved 141 of the 202 pardon recommendations sent by the board since January of 2003. He has denied 23. A majority of the pardons have been for "minor offenses." See story here.

Friday, May 16, 2008

South Dakota: Denial

The South Dakota parole board has denied Debra Jenner parole for the 8th time. It is reported that at least one board member thinks the "grisly nature" of her crime is her biggest obstacle. Governor Bill Janklow commuted Jenner's life sentence without parole to 100-years after she admitted killing her 3-year-old daughter (see other details here). Jenner told members of the parole board she could land a job doing data entry in Pierre if she were to be released early. See story here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

South Dakota: Commutation Revisited

Debra Jenner has been denied parole seven times, but, will seek her freedom once again next week. In 1987, she stabbed her three-year-old daughter, Abby, 70 times with a Chicago Cutlery knife because the child was "fussy" (read more about the details of the murder here). In 2003, Jenner admitted her guilt in taped interviews and former Governor Bill Janklow (R) commuted her sentence to 100 years in prison. Chief Deputy Attorney General Mark Barnett opposes her release, however, because he says Jenner privately tells fellow inmates that she is innocent. As such, the 50-year old's sentence will end in 2039, with good behavior. Jenner's original sentence was life without the possibility of parole.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

South Dakota: Commutations Remembered

This post, at the ArgusLeader, retells the story of "the Janklow 36." Twenty-two years ago, in October of 1986, Governor Bill Janlow (R) addressed the prison overcrowding pardon by releasing individuals that he considered to be "low-risk inmates with few South Dakota ties." Thus, the commutations were conditioned on the recipients leaving the state and never returning. The article says a commutation of that sort "has not been granted in South Dakota before or since." The result of the effort? The ArgusLeader notes:
It was a gamble that, according to an Argus Leader investigation, turned out to be a much bigger public safety risk to South Dakota and other states than the governor probably ever imagined. A few took advantage of the release to re-enter society, starting families and businesses. But many ended up in prison for crimes ranging from dealing drugs to armed robbery and burglary. At least six still are behind bars. One, Cliff Birch, raped a 23-year-old woman in a field between Freeman and Canistota only 20 months after he was granted his early release.
But the article also notes Governor Janklow used the pardon power "at an unmatched rate, issuing almost 2,000 commutations during the second eight-year stint in the governor's office." Nothing is said in the piece about the post-prison record of the other 99 percent of the persons who were released. Nonetheless, the piece concludes:
But the lesson of that decision is a valuable one today as state legislatures struggling with overcrowding and skyrocketing corrections budgets consider easing those pressure valves with early releases. At least eight states are considering freeing inmates or sending some convicts to rehabilitation programs instead of prison ... Now, as states grapple with overcrowding and surging corrections budgets, it's a lesson worth remembering, especially when places such as Kentucky and California are considering releasing thousands of inmates early.
But what exactly is "the lesson" here? Is it that clemency should not be used at all? Or, is it that better judgement should have been made with respect to "many" of the 36 individuals highlighted in the article? Maybe "the lesson" is that the state cannot be 100 percent accurate(only 99 percent) about the future of every individual who, at the time of release, might be worthy of clemency - a rate that might be considered fairly impressive in most other arenas of human activity.

Janklow initiated a program that made inmates eligible for earlier parole if they participated in community service projects. A 2003 task force decided that clemency program was "a good idea." Indeed, ninety-three percent of the nearly 2,000 commutations mentioned above (or 1,874 to be exact) were members of inmate work crews. In addition, most of those commutations were "minor sentence reductions" that simply pushed up an inmate's release date. On average, the difference was about 77.38 days. I am guessing that if most - or even a significant portion - of those released had commited heinous crimes and had been returned to prison, we would all know about it. That is to say, there is a reason for the lack of statistical insights regarding the other 99 percent.

Janklow's clemency decisions were actually "controversial" for another reason. From, 1995 to 2003, the State's nine-member Pardon and Parole Board received a whopping 4,540 applications for commutations. And yet the Board (composed of citizens) only recommended clemency in a 6 cases! Governor Janklow granted all but one of his commutations without input from the board. What is "the lesson" here?

Monday, April 7, 2008

South Dakota: Pardons

According to the State News Service, Governor Mike Rounds (R) has issued the following pardons which were requested through the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles : Lisa M. Wagner (charged with 2 counts of possession of a controlled substance in 1994). Jory Clow charged with 5 counts of second degree petty theft in 1999). James Brandt (possession of a controlled substance) Terry Hanson (2nd degree rape in 1985).

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