Showing posts with label Virginia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Virginia. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Virginia: McAuliffe Does What Presidents Have Done. Many Times.

Lilian Cruz Mendez (from El Salvador) was stopped for a broken taillight and convicted of a driving infraction in 2013. On May 18, during a "routine check-in with ICE officials," she was detained. Governor Terry McAuliffe has since announced that he has pardoned her for the “minor driving offense” and that he hopes the pardon will end any effort to have her face federal deportation proceedings. Says McAuliffe, “While this pardon will not necessarily ensure that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agrees to return Ms. Mendez to her husband and two children, I hope it will send a clear message that tearing this family apart will not make our Commonwealth or our country safer.” He added, “If President Trump and his administration are serious about making our nation safer, they will release Ms. Mendez, focus their immigration enforcement efforts on legitimate threats to our public safety and get behind the comprehensive immigration reform our nation needs.” See story here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Virginia: Post Calls for Clemency

With reference to Blackstone, Sodom, Abraham, and Islam, the Washington Post is calling for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to grant clemency to Ivan Teleguz.

Ivan Teleguz was convicted of capital murder for hire, in 2006, when he "allegedly paid two men to kill Stephanie Yvonne Sipe, his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child."

His attorney says, however, that there were "problems" with his four day trial. Two "critical witnesses" are said to have "recanted their testimony in sworn, written statements." They now say that they gave false testimony "in exchange for leniency in their own cases." The only remaining evidence against Teleguz is the testimony of the man who did the killing. The Post says his testimony is "questionable at best," because he gave it only after he "was threatened with the death penalty." Says the Post:
 As a last resort, Teleguz’s attorneys filed a petition for clemency with  (D) requesting the execution be halted. Clearly, in Teleguz’s case, there are reasonable doubts surrounding his conviction and his sentence that were unknown to the jury at the time. Teleguz is scheduled to die on April 25 for a crime it is entirely plausible he did not commit. The law requires that when so much reasonable doubt exists, the state lacks the power to deprive a person of his most cherished natural right: life. McAuliffe should grant Teleguz’s petition for clemency. 
See story here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Virginia: Pardons for the Norfolk Four

The Associated Press reports Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has granted absolute pardons to four former sailors - known as the "Norfolk Four - "ending a decades-long fight to clear the men of rape and murder convictions based on intimidating police interrogations." DNA evidence linked another individual to a 1979 rape and killing and he claimed to be solely responsible.

Three of the men - Danial Williams, Joseph Dick and Derek Tice - were actually granted "conditional pardons" by Gov. Tim Kaine, in 2009 "and released from prison because of doubts about their guilt, but their convictions remained on the books." A judge then vacated two of the convictions, saying, "no sane human being" could find them guilty. A third convictions was erased in 2009. See full story here.

Monday, September 12, 2016

WSJ: All Thunder and No Lightning

The Wall Street Journal proclaims that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe "is acting in contempt" of the State's Supreme Court. While that language is, traditionally, a matter of legal pronouncement, the Journal - it appearswishes to reduce it to the status of mere editorial insult. Why?

The Journal reminds us that, in July, the Virginia Supreme Court struck down an "executive order restoring voting rights to 206,000 felons." The Journal then implies McAuliffe asserted "absolute power" with respect to the issuance of executive orders (he did not) and that this violated the separation of powers principle in the State's constitution. After the false implication, obfuscation:

The Journal says "the individual clemency power" (a phrase found nowhere in the State's constitution), “does not mean [McAuliffe] can effectively rewrite the general rule of law.” Of course, McAuliffe never made such a claim and "effectively" is mere code for: "not so in any obvious way, to an intelligent person, but we would like to argue it anyway, posing/pretending all the while that it is both true and patently clear." Says the Journal:
He has since acted on his defiance by restoring rights to some 13,000 felons who had already registered to vote when the state Supreme Court’s decision invalidated his executive order. The Democratic Governor claims he is restoring these voting rights by the thousands on an “individual” basis. 
Wait a minute. Claims? Claims?! Well, did he? Or, did he not? Does the Journal have some compelling reason to think otherwise? The Journal simply makes the implication and provides no evidence to the contrary. Zero. And with good reason. There is no basis whatsoever for the implication that the grants were not "individual."

Then, off the rails the editorial goes: McAuliffe is showing "contempt of both the court and the legislature" and is creating a "suspension" of law "simply because [he] disagrees with it." He is acting like the "kings" the "Founders" opposed. He is trying to "rewrite the law" and "do what he wants" while we are "well down the road to tyranny." Blah. Blah. Blah.

Nothing smokes out this nonsense, like the clear, cogent writing of the dissenters - who also happen to serve on the State's Supreme Court. Their commentary on the very very stupid imagery of "suspension" of the law was particularly effective:
The terms of the Executive Order are not prospective and do not prevent any felon from being disqualified from voting upon conviction. Rather, the Executive Order only restored the rights of a subset of felons, namely, those individuals previously convicted of a felony who, as of April 22, 2016, were no longer incarcerated or on supervised probation, which is approximately 206,000 of the over 450,000 felons eligible to be considered for restoration. Moreover, felons whose rights were not restored by the Executive Order, as well as newly convicted felons, continue to be disqualified upon conviction unless the Governor or other appropriate authority acts to restore their rights. Indeed, if the Executive Order was, in fact, a suspension of the Disenfranchisement Clause, there would be no need for the Governor to enter subsequent orders restoring the rights of additional felons. When Governor McAuliffe’s term is over, the new governor will have the discretion to decide whether to restore the rights of subsequent felons disqualified from voting upon conviction as required by the Disenfranchisement Clause. Thus, it is apparent that the Executive Order clearly did not actually reframe the Disenfranchisement Clause as asserted by the majority, nor does it suspend operation of that constitutional provision.
See our summary of the dissenter's opinion here. See complete Wall Street Journal editorial here.

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.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Virginia: AutoPen Clemency On the Way

The Washington Post reports Gov. Terry McAuliffe "will announce Monday that he has restored voting rights to 13,000 felons on a case-by-case basis." The awkwardness of that phrase is the by- product of the the state's Supreme Court stopping "his more sweeping clemency effort." The Post reports:
Immediately after that ruling, McAuliffe vowed to use an autopen to individually sign orders restoring rights. He promised to do the first 13,000 within a week and all 200,000 within two. 
The Post also says a substantial majority" of Virginians "approve of McAuliffe’s original effort to restore felon rights." See story here.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Virginia: Governor Sidesteps Foolish Ruling

The Virginia Supreme Court recently ruled "the clemency power may be broad, but it is not absolute" - a position taken by no governor, or president, in the history of the United States. The Court then hopped on the straw man's shoulders and boldly observed none of Virginia's 71 Governors has ever "issued [a] clemency order of any kind, whether to restore civil rights or grant a pardon, to an entire class of unnamed felons." No, they all "exercised their clemency powers — including pardons, reprieves, commutations, and restorations— on an individualized case-by-case basis taking into account the specific circumstances of each."

Then, the Court went abruptly stupid. It raised the horrifying specter of "suspending laws" without "consent of the representatives of the people," and composed this amazing passage:
We acknowledge the contention that the Governor’s Executive Order did not wholly suspend the operation of the voter-disqualification provision ... Even so, we fail to see why this matters. 
The Court concluded that Governor McAuliffe's attempt to restore voting rights to hundreds of thousands of felons - in the style of amnesty, or group pardon - amounted to an attempt to "effectively rewrite the general rule of law and replace it with a categorical exception." Frightening stuff indeed. No, McAuliffe, said the Court, could only "use his clemency powers to mitigate a general rule of law on a case-by-case basis."

Dissenters noted the Court's notion of "suspension" was even more goofy than its analysis suggested.
... the majority [improperly] defines what suspension means [The] . . . term is generally applied to the abrogation of a statute or statutes, so that they lose altogether their binding force . . . [T]he law is put out of action; . . . it is in substance repealed . . . A pardon does not affect the legality of the act. It simply frees a guilty person from the legal consequences of his illegal acts ... The terms of [McAuliffe's] Executive Order are not prospective and do not prevent any felon from being disqualified from voting upon conviction. Rather, the Executive Order only restored the rights of a subset of felons, namely, those individuals previously convicted of a felony who, as of April 22, 2016, were no longer incarcerated or on supervised probation, which is approximately 206,000 of the over 450,000 felons eligible to be considered for restoration. Moreover, felons whose rights were not restored by the Executive Order, as well as newly convicted felons, continue to be disqualified upon conviction. [Indeed], if the Executive Order was, in fact, a suspension of the Disenfranchisement Clause, there would be no need for the Governor to enter subsequent orders restoring the rights of additional felons. When Governor McAuliffe’s term is over, the new governor will have the discretion to decide whether to restore the rights of subsequent felons disqualified from voting upon conviction as required by the Disenfranchisement Clause. Thus, it is apparent that the Executive Order clearly did not actually reframe the Disenfranchisement Clause as asserted by the majority, nor does it suspend operation of that constitutional provision.  
So, it's easy. McAuliffe told Democrats at the national convention that he will indeed restore voting rights to those hundreds of thousands of felons within the next two weeks. According to the Washington Post, he "vowed to use an autopen to sign the orders." See story here.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Virginia: Supreme Court Limits Pardon Power (Dissent)

"The majority ignores the plain language of [the] Disenfranchisement Clause, Article II, Section 1, and the Restoration Clause, Article V, Section 12, which clearly contemplate that the Governor has the authority to “remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction.” Not only is the majority opinion, with respect to the purported violation of the Suspension Clause, not supported by the plain language of the Constitution of Virginia, but it is also decided in a manner that is contrary to established Virginia jurisprudence.

To the extent one could view the Governor’s action in restoring political disabilities as a suspension of law, the Governor would be “suspending” the law each time he removed a person’s political disabilities, whether he did so on an individual basis or by categorical order. But by approving the Disenfranchisement Clause of the Constitution and by giving the Governor executive clemency powers in the Restoration Clause, the people of the Commonwealth have given their consent to the Governor’s suspension of the law within the limitations set out in the Restoration Clause. Virginia Governors have been exercising this authority for over two hundred years and there is no dispute that a governor’s exercise of such clemency power on an individual basis does not violate the Suspension Clause.

Virginia: Supreme Court Limits Pardon Power (Dissent)

"The majority ignores the plain language of [the] Disenfranchisement Clause, Article II, Section 1, and the Restoration Clause, Article V, Section 12, which clearly contemplate that the Governor has the aut hority to “remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction.” Not only is the majority opinion, with respect to the purported violation of the Suspension Clause, not supported by the plain language of the Constitution of Virginia, but it is also decided in a manner that is contrary to established Virginia jurisprudence.

To the extent one could view the Governor’s action in restoring political disabilities as a suspension of law, the Governor would be “suspending” the law each time he removed a person’s political disabilities, whether he did so on an individual basis or by categorical order. But by approving the Disenfranchisement Clause of the Constitution and by giving the Governor executive clemency powers in the Restoration Clause, the people of the Commonwealth have given their consent to the Governor’s suspension of the law within the limitations set out in the Restoration Clause. Virginia Governors have been exercising this authority for over two hundred years and there is no dispute that a governor’s exercise of such clemency power on an individual basis does not violate the Suspension Clause.

... it is particularly telling that the majority does not dispute the fact that the Governor may remove an individual felon’s political disabilities for any reason he chooses, including that he has served his sentence. Moreover, the majority acknowledges that the Governor could use many individual orders to achieve the mass restoration of rights he sought to accomplish under the Executive Order. Thus, the majority, in essence, takes the position that the Suspension Clause requires the Governor to exercise his executive powers in a different, less efficient manner.

Virginia: Supreme Court Limits Pardon Power

[Developing]

"Never before have any of the prior 71 Virginia Governors issued a clemency order of any kind — including pardons, reprieves, commutations, and restoration orders — to a class of unnamed felons without regard for the nature of the crimes or any other individual circumstances relevant to the request. To be sure, no Governor of this Commonwealth, until now, has even suggested that such a power exists. And the only Governors who have seriously considered the question concluded that no such power exists.

In this case, Governor McAuliffe asserts that his clemency power in this matter is “absolute” under Article V, Section 12 of the Constitution of Virginia. J.A. at 1. We respectfully disagree. The clemency power may be broad, but it is not absolute. Deeply embedded in the Virginia legal tradition is “a cautious and incremental approach to any expansions of the executive power.” Gallagher v. Commonwealth, 284 Va. 444, 451, 732 S.E.2d 22, 25 (2012). This tradition reflects our belief that the “concerns motivating the original framers in 1776 still survive in Virginia,” including their skeptical view of “the unfettered exercise of executive power.” Id.

... Scores of restoration orders have been issued for more than a century to specific felons who requested that their civil rights be restored. Never before, however, have any of the prior 71 Virginia Governors issued a sua sponte clemency order of any kind, whether to restore civil rights or grant a pardon, to an entire class of unnamed felons without regard for the nature of the crimes or any other individual circumstances relevant to the request. What is more, we are aware of no point in the history of the Commonwealth that any Governor has even asserted the power to issue such an order.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Virginia: Clemency

It is reported that Governor Terry McAuliffe has granted clemency to Robert Paul Davis who was convicted of murdering a woman and her three year old son in a house fire in 2003.

Davis, who was eighteen year old at the time, insisted that he was innocent, but plead guilty after a six-hour interrogation. Two others were also convicted in the matter. Afterward, one of the other two told an attorney that Davis was not actually involved in the incident. See story here. and here.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Virginia: Commutation Struck Down!

A federal judge has ruled that a commutation of sentence granted by former Gov. Bob McDonnell was unconstitutional. McDonnell commuted a sentence of six life terms to a term of 40 years.

The recipient, one Travion Blount, was 15 years old, in 2006, when he robbed a Norfolk house party with two 18-year-olds. Blount refused to plead guilty and was convicted at trial of 49 of 51 felonies and sentenced to six life terms plus an additional 118 years.

See details of this fascinating case here!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Virginia: Request

PilotOnline reports that Del. Joseph Morrissey, D-Henrico, has written to the governor in order to seek a pardon for an "innocent" man. More specifically, Governor Bob McDonnell is being asked to pardon former Navy SEAL trainee Dustin Turner clemency for the 1995 murder of Jennifer Evans. According to PilotOnline, in 2002, "Billy Joe Brown, his co-defendant, confessed he acted alone, triggering Turner's petition." Morrissey has also referenced "a new, less strict standard for overturning convictions that cleared the General Assembly this year." See story here.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Virginia: 4 Pardons, Many Restorations (and Libby)

A recent report by the Commonwealth of Virginia on "pardons, commutations of sentence, reprieves and other forms of clemency" announces that Governor Robert F. McDonnell has pardoned an individual for stealing leftover broccoli from a grocery store and granted three conditional pardons for broccoli theft, aggravated sexual battery and shoplifting. Pages 4-330 of the report list individuals whose rights had been restored. Among them: Scooter Libby! See reaction from TalkLeft here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Virginia: Conditional Pardon

PilotOnline.com reports Governor Bob McDonnell "has issued a conditional pardon for an imprisoned Hampton man whose accuser recently recanted her story." Twenty-six year old Johnathan Montgomery was convicted of sexual assault in 2008 and sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison. Now, his accuser "has admitted to fabricating the story" and "has been charged with perjury." The governor's pardon reads:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Virginia: Restoration of Rights

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Gov. Bob McDonnell is "on pace to restoring the civil rights of more felons than any of his predecessors." More than 1,100 rights restorations were granted in 2010. In 2011, McDowell restored the rights to more than 1,350 felons. As a result, McDonnell is delivering on a campaign promise to improve the restoration process and is on pace (after only two years) to surpass the 4,402 restorations mark set by former Democrat Timothy M. Kaine after four years. A spokesperson says McDonnell "believes in second chances and redemption." See full story here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Representative Questions Holder re Pardons

A Legislative Assistant in the Office of Representative Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (Virginia, 3rd District) - member of the House Judiciary Committee - has confirmed that the following questions have been formally submitted to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:

------------------------------------------------------------

You testified when you were confirmed that you would study the problems with the clemency advisory process and fix them.

1. Please let us know what you have found and what changes you have made or plan to make.

It has been reported that the pardon attorney no longer assigns commutation cases to staff attorneys, and does not write a recommendation in the large majority of these cases.

2. How does this fulfill the Department's responsibility to advise the president about the merits of each case?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Virginia: Jagger. Day Late. Argument Short.


At the Huffington Post, noted criminal law expert Bianca Jagger - whom, we feel safe to assume, opposes the death penalty in any and all instances - is calling upon the Governor of Virginia to halt today's execution of Teresa Lewis, in part, because Lewis "will be the first woman to be put to death by the State of Virginia since 1912." Which is to say, no one is particularly concerned about the gender gaps in our prisons, or on death row. Those gaps are to be protected, if not celebrated.

Jagger - apparently too busy to comment on the case until today - notes Lewis was sentenced to death "for plotting the murders of her husband and stepson" but complains that the "actual murderers" (the co-conspirators who actually wielded the weapons) received only life sentences. Jagger points out that Lewis (like, say, Al Capone, or Charles Manson), "never held a gun or fired a shot" (although Lewis did leave a door open for quick entry, stood by and watched the murders and waited a half hour afterward before calling police).

Jagger is also stunned that Lewis appears to have an IQ of 72 - a fact which appears to have in no way ever affected Lewis' life or interactions with others until the time of the murder. She was not a ward of the state and no one seems to have been making any effort to make her one. Nonetheless, "it is very clear" to Jagger that Lewis "possessed neither the verbal intelligence nor the independent initiative to frame and mastermind a plan to murder the victims." Again, the master plan, in this case, was to leave a door open, sit back and watch and to call the police much later. The cynic might note that the level of complexity in this grand scheme did not demand too many IQ points. See complete letter here.

P.S. A comment at TalkLeft observes, "I believe the lowest result of the several IQ tests she took (all of them were administered post-arrest) was 72 ... All of the IQ tests were administered after she was arrested for the murders. ie., she had every reason to purposely try do poorly on the tests. And she also is a HS grad, had never failed a class, had earned a nursing assistant certification and had raised a child in addition for caring for her aged parents. I don't for a second suggest she's the brightest crayon in the box, but dumb people murder others just as dead as smart people."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Virginia: Rejection

Gov. Bob McDonnell has announced that he finds "no compelling reasons" to use his clemency powers to intervene on behalf of 41-year old grandmother Teresa Lewis, who is scheduled to be executed next week. McDonnell was particularly impressed by the fact that Lewis, "does not deny" that she committed the "heinous crimes" for which she was charged. As WTKR, Channel 3 reports it, she "offered herself and her 16-year-old daughter for sex to two men" to "her husband and stepson in their Pittsylvania County home in 2002 so she could collect a $250,000 life insurance policy." She also "provided money to buy the murder weapons and stood by while they shot her husband, Julian Clifton Lewis Jr., 51, and stepson Charles J. Lewis, 25, in Pittsylvania County in south-central Virginia." She also left the door of the house open, for easy entry, and waited 45 minutes before calling the police. All of this happened 8 years ago.

Supporters of Lewis' clemency application argue that she has a low IQ. But David Grimes, Commonwealth's Attorney for Pittsylvania County, who visited the scene of the crime says:
I can frankly say that Teresa Lewis is as evil a person as I've ever met. I would wager with some assurance that you wouldn't find anyone who knew her before this event occurred who thought she was mentally retarded, or had a limited mentality -- that it would ever cross their minds.
See story here.and here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

NPR (Lopez) Call for Commutation of Sentence

Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review believes Teresa Lewis should receive a commutation of sentence from Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, at least if the facts are as author John Grisham has presented them in a recent Washington Post editorial.

Grisham's piece oddly begins with the suggestion that Virginia "already has a serious relationship with its death penalty" because 1) only Texas has executed more inmates in the last three decades and 2) on Sept. 23 it will enter "new territory" if it "executes a female inmate for the first time in nearly a century." We gather that Grisham would the death penalty in any case but, after that, we are completely baffled as to his meaning. Is executing a woman more unacceptable than a man?  What backward, sexist, patronizing view fuels this outlook?

Grisham says outright Ms. Lewis "is not innocent." She confessed to the police and plead guilty to a judge. In addition, the evidence against her was "overwhelming." Consequently, her lawyers advised her to plead guilty and place her fate in the hands of the judge. It appears that they also guessed that the judge would sentence her to life in prison, in part, because no woman had received the death sentence in Virginia since 1912. Perhaps Virginia's Southern Gentleman judges also think the death penalty is inappropriate for women.

Lewis was sentenced to death. Three co-defendants, however, were sentenced to life in prison, the reasoning being, in part being that Lewis "was more culpable than the men, who shot their victims as they slept. The killings were her idea, [she] was the mastermind; she recruited [the men] to do the dirty work; she wanted the money; and so on."

Grisham states "much" of the above argument "went unchallenged at Lewis's sentencing hearing" without offering an explanation as to why. But he says "it has since been challenged." The counter arguments? Lewis is said to have an IQ of  "just above70," she has "dependent personality disorder," she is addicted to pain medications and she has not been violent in the past. The cynic might note that, taken together, these arguments, if at all valid, would actually appear to make a very excellent case that Lewis IS innocent!

Yet Grisham argues (and produces letters suggesting that) Lewis was actually manipulated by a co-defendant who committed suicide while in jail. For a writer of fiction, he seems to have no imagination for the possibility that the non-violent, pliable Lewis may have been manipulated in the judicial process - like during her confession to the police! He does say:
In this case, as in so many capital cases, the imposition of a death sentence had little do with fairness. Like other death sentences, it depended more upon the assignment of judge and  prosecutor, the location of the crime, the quality of the defense counsel, the speed with which a co-defendant struck a deal, the quality of each side's experts and other such factors.
We admire Grisham's quaint desire that the law is the same for everyone, everywhere. But such natural law perspectives have been hard hit by Legal Realism and Behavioral Jurisprudence. By Grisham's standards, there is very little "fairness" in many other kinds of cases, where the best predictors of judicial decision making are (and have long been) the party identification of judges, their backgrounds and experiences, etc. Welcome to the real world judiciary Mr. Grisham! Join us more often!

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