Showing posts with label T. Roosevelt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label T. Roosevelt. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Obama and Other Multiple Term Presidents

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Obama: Second Only to Wilson and Coolidge in Commutations

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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

Saturday, February 9, 2013

T. Roosevelt and the Pardon Power

Readers are invited to read/download a paper (.pdf file) that the Editor of this blog wrote and presented at the at the Theodore Roosevelt: Life, Times and Legacy international conference, Shreveport, Louisiana (October 2012). The specific title is "Theodore Roosevelt and the Pardon Power."

Roosevelt buffs will probably find pages 11-21 interesting because they deal with notable acts of clemency. Included in this section are: a headless corpse, a movie star, the Lone Ranger, a few ax murders, a child rapist, Wyatt Erp, Doc Holiday, Bat Masterson, "Hanging" Judge Isaac Parker, and a guy who faked a sickness to get a pardon, then outlived the president who pardoned him!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

T. Roosevelt v. Modern Presidents

                 Commutations of Sentence
     Theodore Roosevelt v. Eight Recent Administrations

% of All Grants
% of All Grants
FY 1902
FY 1903
FY 1904
FY 1905
FY 1906
H.W. Bush
FY 1907
FY 1908
W. Bush
FY 1909


* Across 8 fiscal years, Roosevelt granted three times more commutations of sentence than all of the presidents over the last 45 years combined. See additional summary statistics on commutations of sentence here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Case of Joe Martin (and the Headless Corpse)

The following post is from a paper presented by P.S. Ruckman, Jr., at the “Theodore Roosevelt: Life, Times and Legacy” conference. Louisiana State University (Shreveport). October 17-20, 2012. 

One day, Ernest Adams picked up a club and attacked Joe Martin, a citizen of Yell County, Arkansas. Martin managed to escape and retreated to his own home. Adams went to a friend’s house, borrowed a Winchester rifle and made his way to the Martin residence. As he approached the front door, Adams saw Martin sitting in a chair with his 4-year-old daughter, Nora, in his lap. Adams then threatened to kill Martin, but Martin pled with Adams not to have the poor taste to commit murder right in front of his family. So, Adams forced Martin down a road and along a path.

Later, Martin's family heard a rifle shot coming from the woods. But, to their general astonishment, Joe Martin emerged alive. And Ernest Adams was nowhere to be seen. Martin later claimed that, as he and Adams were walking along, they both thought that they heard the sound of another man’s footsteps in the woods. In that slight moment of concern and hesitation, Martin grabbed Adams’ gun and a struggle ensued. Martin said he then shot Adams in self-defense.

Later, the body of a man was found floating in the Red River. It was wrapped in a bed quilt that was later linked to Martin. Unfortunately, the head of the corpse had been removed. As a result, the identification process was said to have been “very incomplete.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gov. T. Roosevelt: By the Numbers

Theodore Roosevelt granted 94 acts of clemency as Governor of New York (January 1, 1899 to December 31, 1900). 51 were granted in 1899 and 43 were granted in 1900. The classifications of these acts is as follows:

69 commutations of sentence
21 pardons
 3 respites
 2 conditional commutations of sentence

The offense addressed in these acts ranged from being a being a tramp, stealing a bicycle and maiming to grand larceny and murder. On average, clemency was granted 4 years after sentencing (the average sentence being 6.3 years in length.

The Annual Statement of the Governor provides no less than 287 separate, distinct explanations for these 94 acts. A few are peculiar (death of a father, ill brother, rescued a prison officer from attack, saved a child in a fire, etc.), but almost all of them fit comfortably in a categorization scheme of 33 dimensions.

The most common justifications referenced the recommendations of prosecuting attorneys (44) and judges (40). In 32 instances, Roosevelt considered the offense minor / technical or judged the recipient less culpable. In 28 instances, Roosevelt noted the recipient had served a considerable portion of his/her sentence, or had served enough time given the nature of the offense.

While these explanations would be generally expected, the several which follow in order say much more about Roosevelt himself and the circumstances of the times. A good reputation before the offense was cited in 19 instances. Roosevelt complained about the excessive nature of sentences in 15 instances. He worried about the possible innocence in 14 others.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

T. Roosevelt Does His Thing

In February of 1903, Theodore Roosevelt commuted the one-year prison sentence of one John Bolan of Arizona. The U.S. Attorney General had carefully reviewed the case and decided that Bolan's offense was deliberately committed with "full knowledge" of both the law and the "consequences."

As a result the Attorney General advised Roosevelt that Bolan's application for a commutation of sentence should be denied. The sentence, however, was commuted by Roosevelt to expire at once! Bolan's offense? "Engaging in a pugilistic encounter."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Solomon Hotema's Witch Hunt

Throughout his life, Solomon Hotema practiced law, served as a judge and discharged his duties “in an able and conscientious manner.” According to the Annual Report of the Attorney General for 1903, he was “a man of wealth and high standing among his people” (the Choctaw Indians) and “very charitable.” Yes, Hotema led an “exemplary” life, but for one small flaw.

The Annual Report noted, “for many years” he had been in the habit of “getting drunk.” A judge had also observed that, while drunk, Hotema “manifested a disposition to be combative and also a disposition to use deadly weapons.” For example, on the morning of April 14, 1899, Hotema threw back a few stiff ones and went to the house of one Vina Coleman. In the past, Hotema had “always been on most friendly terms” with Coleman. But, on this morning, Hotema was “more or less under the influence of liquor.” So, he took Coleman’s life with a single shotgun blast. A small child nearby was also injured. A startled fifteen-year old attempted to flee the premises. But, Hotema spotted him, then shot and “badly wounded” the boy. The merciless gunman then hopped on a horse and rode away from the Coleman residence. As he approached a second home, Hotema shot and killed a man. With more buckshot and plenty of time, he rode to a third house and shot and killed another woman.

Hotema’s trial was reported to have “caused a big stir” throughout “a large portion of the country” and, at trial, his lawyers certainly had their hands full. They quickly agreed to argue that their client was not guilty by reason of insanity. But the position of the defense was not simply based on the fact that Hotema was intoxicated at the time of the murders, or that he had a ten-year habit of intoxication and violence.

The defense informed the courtroom that Hotema’s community had been hit with an epidemic of meningitis nine years earlier. Many lives were lost and among them was Solomon Hotema’s little daughter. As the death toll reached “alarming proportions,” Hotema and others consulted an individual who lived nearby. This specialist (described by the New York Times as an “Indian witch doctor”) diagnosed the loss of life as the clear result of the practice of witchcraft in the community and, in a sense, he also prescribed a cure by specifically naming the individuals who were witches.

Hotema (who was also a Presbyterian minister) was surely familiar with the Biblical command to kill witches (Exodus 22:16) - a command which is much more forceful and clear than the typical warning against “strong drink” (see Proverbs 20:1). Indeed, in a statement that issued from jail shortly after the arrest, Hotema said he had always “been for peace” but the “evil practice of magic” had “been among the Indian people for a number of years.” Thus, he decided to “sacrifice” his own life “for the Lord’s cause.”

Hotema numbered himself with “the law breakers” and “humbly” submitted his “neck” to the gallows.” And the defense lawyers simply ran with it. Their client murdered three people in cold blood because he believed all of them were witches. The jury was left to implicitly wonder, “How insane was that?” Incidentally, there are no known indications of how the intoxicated Choctaw witch hunter felt about the spiritual status of the fifteen-year old boy or the infant.

Hotema was tried for the murder of the second and third victims and acquitted by the jury on the ground of insanity. When he was next tried for the murder of Vina Coleman, the jury was unable to agree upon a verdict. So, before the judge sent the jury away for deliberation at the end of the third trial, he gave careful instructions. First, he noted that, as far as guilt or innocence was concerned, it was “not material” whether the evidence showed Hotema had any specific “motive” for killing Coleman. If the killing was intentional and without justification, then there was simply no need to search for a “motive.” The jury was then told that Hotema’s “recent use of whiskey” could not be considered a “defense” in the case. Finally, the judge informed the jury Hotema may very well have had a sincere belief in witches. But, if Hotema also believed he had “the right” to kill persons whom he believed to be witches, he might have to suffer the consequences. The punishment would depend on whether the belief was the “insane delusion” of an unsound mind, or the “erroneous conclusion” of a sane person.

Hotema was found guilty of murder (without qualification) and, on February 14, 1902, sentenced to hang. His lawyers appealed the conviction, of course, and the sentence was reversed. But the result of Hotema's dramatic re-sentencing was nothing more than a new date with the hangman's rope. A second round of appeals went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

Justice Peckham wrote the Opinion of the Court in the case Hotema v. U.S. (1902). Peckham and a unanimous Court held the trial judge had “properly laid down the law” in regard to the responsibility of Hotema and his “alleged mental condition.” Peckham also noted the “distinction” between the erroneous opinion and insane delusion was “somewhat difficult” and the line could not be “easily drawn.” But, the Justice explained, “it exists.” The most interesting section of the Court’s opinion came at the end. Peckham noted the trial court had committed “no legal” error and that the justices were therefore “bound” to affirm its judgment. But Peckham could not help but note that, before the third trial, one jury acquitted Hotema on “two distinct and separate murders” on the ground of insanity and a second jury could not reach a decision. It took a third jury (and a lot of instructing!) to convict Hotema. Peckham observed:
The question whether, upon consideration of the facts, the extreme penalty of the law should be carried out upon this defendant, is one which must be addressed to the consideration of the executive, as it is not one over which this court has jurisdiction.
Attorney General Philander Chase Knox picked up on the Court’s cue and called upon Dr. A.B. Richardson, a “noted alienist” and superintendent of the Government Hospital for the Insane, to review the case. Dr. Richardson submitted a “full and satisfactory” report that concluded the “tribal and racial characteristics” of Hotema had been “largely obliterated” by “education,” but were “renewed and strengthened by the use of intoxicants.” Hotema's sentence was thus commuted - to life imprisonment - on October 28, 1902.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Merciful President v. Harsh (Incompetent) Bureaucrat(s)

The New York Times made the announcement on May 1, 1907, in a headline that read: MAY PARDON JANUARY. The brief article that followed informed readers that President Roosevelt might exercise the pardoning power in the case of John William January of Missouri by granting a commutation of January’s sentence “at once” or by granting a “outright” pardon. Roosevelt was reported to have become “interested” in the case.

January, whose real name was Charles William Anderson, was charged with breaking into the Post Office at Hennessey, Oklahoma, with the intent to commit larceny. The Federal Court at Guthrie sentenced the twenty-one year old to five years in prison in December of 1895. January was considered a “model prisoner” but, eventually, he decided that he would rather do other things. The Times originally reported January had served “the greater part” of his sentence, but he escaped from Leavenworth in October of 1898. That is, he served thirty-four months of a sixty-month sentence. On the other hand, with allowances for good conduct, January could have been released as early as sixteen months after the day he decided to escape.

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.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Typical Outcomes of Clemency Requests Per Fiscal Year

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reporting on Pardons ... Tradition !

In November of 1911, the Washington Post reported President William Howard Taft was on a "record-setting" pace for pardons and would probably break the overall mark set by Theodore Roosevelt. But, in fact, Ulysses S. Grant and Grover Cleveland had both granted more pardons than Roosevelt.

And, when all was said and done, Taft didn't top Roosevelt (much less Grant or Cleveland). Nor did Taft top the marks set by presidents William McKinley or Rutherford B. Hayes. No, the "record-setting" pace finished sixth for that point in history! And nine out of the next ten presidents out-pardoned Taft as well!

In the same article, the Post informed its readers that Taft’s pardons were based “only on merits” and that “influence and politics” were “ignored.” Ah, the good old days.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Presidents, Pardons and Athletes

In honor of Barry Bonds, a repost from July of 2008:

I recently chatted with an enthusiastic and well-informed reporter about professional athletes and the pardon power. The interview was, of course, prompted by speculation regarding baseball's Roger Clemens (who has not been convicted of anything) and former track and field star Marion Jones (who received a 6-month sentence for lying to federal investigators). There is also a long-standing call for the pardon of deceased boxer Jack Johnson (who was charged with violating the Mann Act). The discussion gave me a chance to reflect on my memories of athletes and the pardon power. Having personally gone through the clemency warrants of thousands of individuals from 1789 to 2001, word by word, those memories were actually more distinct than I might have guessed.

Athletic prowess seemed to first show up in warrants in the 1800s. My memory is that they involved private foot-races, where individuals placed bets, or illegal fights of some sort. In some instances such events were actually rigged, so fraud was piled on top of gambling in prosecutions. My memory is also that these offenses were generally committed in the District of the Columbia, where the president exercises the pardon power much like a state governor.

The first appearance of more wide-scale, organized athletic events that I recall was during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. It stood out in my mind because Roosevelt was a boxing fan and the pardons were for a couple of boxers. Roosevelt also pardoned John L. Lennon, the nephew of boxing legend John L. Sullivan (who lobbied for the grant personally and without even an ounce of criticism from the media). I am not certain if that is a comment on Roosevelt, Sullivan or the media of the day.

Since the good old days, the stories of numerous athletes have appeared in clemency applications and warrants. Racing greats Junior Johnson (NASCAR legend) and Rick Hendrick (the "King of NASCAR") have received presidential pardons. Stunt pilot Laura H. Ingalls tried to secure a pardon for years, but never succeeded. She had been attached to the Nazis, so it was a tough sell. Joe Don Looney was a standout at the University of Oklahoma and an interesting character in the National Football league. He was pardoned for drug possession. Charles "Tex" Harrison was an All-American at North Carolina Central University and became a Harlem Globetrotter. Eventually he became the coach of the Globetrotters. This blog has also reported on former Kansas City Royals star Willie Mays Aikens who had pardon applications declined by both Clinton and Bush. Of course, there are others that are around the edges of the world of athletics - George Steinbrenner (who made illegal contributions to the campaign of Richard Nixon), Jimmy "the Greek" (pardoned by Gerald Ford), etc.

Do professional athletes enjoy any kind of "advantage" in the pardon process? Our data on pardons are so thin, it is not possible to render anything close to a scientific answer. But it would seem reasonable enough to theorize (if not assume) that professional athletes enjoy - if anything - the potential "advantage" of access. It is an advantage, of course, that is shared with all persons who are public figures. Granted, fame can be a double-edged sword in this circumstance. It can bring greater scrutiny and greater criticism.

Nonetheless, it would probably be easier for Roger Clemens or filmmaker Ken Burns (who supports the pardon for Jack Johnson) to walk into the White House, or the office of anyone else in the administration, than it would be for any of the seemingly nameless, faceless thousands that have applications waiting in the Office of the Pardon Attorney. And, if the Clinton pardon scandals taught us anything at all, it is that access can be terribly important. It does not necessarily determine the outcome (there were some who had access who failed), because there are certainly other constraints (both formal and informal). But it is apparent that access can, in some circumstances, win the day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Explorer. Oil Man. Liar. Pardoned!

On September 1, 1909, Dr. Frederick A. Cook sent a cable to the New York Herald which read:


The news of Dr. Cook’s achievement spread throughout the United States, and made headlines in Paris and Berlin. It looked like the story of the century was about to unfold in the pages of a struggling newspaper. But, consistent with a theme in Cook’s life, newspapers in London were somewhat skeptical of his claim.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Henry Starr: A Life of Crime (Pardon and Parole)

He started robbing banks on horseback in 1893 and he ended up robbing his last in an automobile in 1921. His led a gang of bank robbers before he was twenty-one years old and, on his death bed, proudly boasted that he had robbed more banks than any man in America. His grandfather was suspected of 20 murders and his uncle rode with the James Gang. In sum, Henry Starr a.k.a. the Cherokee Bad Boy was a perfect candidate for federal executive clemency.

Starr's first arrest was for horse theft. His cousin put up two thousand dollars for bail, but Henry failed to return for trial. While making an appearance on “Wanted” posters, Starr quickly joined two others in a string of railway depot and store robberies. In an attempted arrest, he shot and killed U.S. Deputy Marshall Floyd Wilson. The last three shots apparently came at close range and after Wilson was already suffering from the effect of a wound that was probably fatal. Starr hoped on the dead Marshall’s horse and calmly rode away. Starr later justified his actions as follows: “They started the fireworks.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Amazing Case of Charner Tidwell

On March 22, 1922, Warren Harding granted a pardon to a person that many considered to be the American version of The Count of Monte Cristo. Charner Tidwell was from a well respected family, and just seventeen years old when he was convicted of the murder of one Jim Brown (a husband and father of three children) and sentenced to life in prison.

Bad things seemed to happen to those that were involved in putting young Tidwell away. The constable that arrested him drove his own car under the wheels of a speeding train. The U.S. marshal who detained him died of tuberculosis. The district attorney in the case experienced an "untimely death" as well. So, the judge who sentenced Tidwell, being somewhat superstitious, decided to visit the young man in prison. Unfortunately, the visit happened to come on a day that the prisoners had scheduled a riot. The judge was shot dead in the chest.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Context: Amnesties (or Blanket Pardons)

Washington - July 10 1795, Whiskey Insurrectionists
Adams - May 21 1800, Pennsylvania Insurrectionists (Fries Rebellion)
Jefferson - October 15 1807, Military deserters (if surrendered in 4 months)
Madison - February 7 1812, Military deserters (if surrendered in 4 months)
Madison - October 8 1812, Military deserters (if surrendered in 4 months)
Madison - June 14 1814, Military deserters (if surrendered in 4 months)
Madison - February 6 1815, Pirates participating in War of 1812
Jackson - June 12 1830, Military deserters discharged, those confined released
Buchanan - April 6, 1858, Utah uprising
Lincoln - February 14 1862, Political prisoners paroled
Lincoln - March 10 1863, Military deserters restored with only forfeiture of pay
Lincoln - December 8 1863, “Rebellion” participants (with exceptions) subject to oath
Lincoln - February 26 1864, Military deserters sentences mitigated, restored to duty
Lincoln - March 26 1864, Clarification of December 8, 1863, amnesty
Lincoln - March 11 1865, Military deserters (if returned to post in 60 days)
Johnson - May 29 1865, Certain rebels of Confederate States
Johnson - May 4 1866, Clarification of previous amnesty
Johnson - July 3 1866, Military deserters restored with only forfeiture of pay
Johnson - September 7 1867, Confederates (excepting certain officers) subject to oath
Johnson - July 4 1868, Confederates (except those indicted for treason or felony)
Johnson - December 25 1868, Confederates (universal and unconditional)
Harrison - January 4 1893, Mormons practicing polygamy
Cleveland - September 25 1894, Mormons practicing polygamy
T. Roosevelt - July 4 1902, Philippine insurrectionists, subject to oath
Wilson - June 14 1917 5,000, Persons under suspended sentences
Wilson - August 21 1917, Clarification, reaffirmation of June 14 amnesty
Coolidge - December 15 1923, Espionage Act
Coolidge - March 5 1924, Over 100 military deserters. Restoration of citizenship.
F. Roosevelt - December 23 1933, Over 1,500 who violated Espionage or Draft laws.
Truman - December 24 1945, Thousands of ex-convicts serving at least 1 year in war
Truman - December 23 1947, 1,523 draft evaders (recommended by Amnesty Board)
Truman - December 24 1952, Convicts serving armed forces at least 1 year since 1950
Truman - December 24 1952, Military deserters convicted between 1945 and 1950
Ford - September 16 1974, Vietnam draft evaders. Conditioned on public service
Carter - January 21 1977, Vietnam draft evaders. Unconditional pardon

* For additional updating / commentary on this list, contact the Editor of this blog.

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