Showing posts with label Washington. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Washington. Show all posts

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Washington: 6 Pardons 4 Commutations of Sentence

Johnny Ray Stewart, was serving a "life" term under Washington's “three strikes” law. But, just before she left office, Gov. Chris Gregoire commuted Stewart's sentence. In large part, the commutation was based on the fact that Stewart "blew the whistle" on one Steven Sherer, a fellow prison inmate who was plotting to kill Marilyn Brennemana, King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor. At the time, Sherer was serving a 60-year sentence for killing his wife!

The commutation was one of 4 granted by the governor, along with 6 pardons. See story here and here.

Of course, since these decisions were made at the last-minute, it would appear to be a good time to consider the Governor's overall record on clemency. At present, we are finding it difficult to locate aggregate statistics. According to a July 2007 report:
Since taking office in January 2005, Gov. Gregoire has rejected the board's recommendation for clemency seven times, according to a Seattle Weekly review of clemency records. That's out of 19 board recommendations on which she's taken action. By contrast, her predecessor, Gary Locke, spurned the board's advice just nine times over the course of eight years in office, during which he acted on more than 70 board recommendations.
According to this report in June of 2010:
Gov. Mike Lowry from 1993 to 1997 commuted nine sentences — six for seriously ill or dying inmates — and pardoned one woman. Gov. Gary Locke, the most active recent governor, granted 66 pardons and commutations from 1997 to 2005. More than half were granted after Locke decided he would not run for re-election in mid-2003. Gregoire's 26 acts of clemency mostly have been granted to people who have lived crime-free for years and had difficulty getting a professional license.
We will look for additional data next week.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What They Don't Teach in Con Law: Roy Olmstead

Roy Olmstead was born in 1886, to a family of farmers in Nebraska. In 1904, he moved to Seattle, Washington and worked in a shipyard before joining the Seattle Police Department. Roy impressed his superiors and rose through the ranks, but saw opportunities for profit when Washington State prohibited the manufacturing and selling of alcohol in 1916.

So, he began his own bootleg operations and was eventually identified driving around a roadblock set by Prohibition Bureau agents. Olmstead was fired from the force, but established himself more firmly as "the Good Bootlegger" (because his operations failed to feature prostitution, gambling, gun-running, narcotics trafficking, etc.). Indeed, he did not allow his employees to carry firearms.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Washington: Life Sentence to Pardon

The Pacific Northwest Inlander is reporting on the full Gov. Christine Gregoire granted last week to Starcia Ague. It is reported that the pardon was prompted, at least in part, by "Ague’s youth, her large network of supporters, and her consistent high achieving since her arrest at 15." The Governor's decision also followed a 5-0 recommendation by the State's Clemency and Pardons Board. It was at the tender age of 15 when Ague helped plan a break-in which resulted in home invasion and the abuse of its occupants. While serving her life sentence, Ague has earned a criminal justice degree from Washington State University and is now a "researcher" at University of Washington.

It is also reported that, since 2006, the Board has considered 708 requests for pardon and made a positive recommendation in only 70 instances. The governor has granted only 32 pardons. See story here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

From Alcatraz to the White House

The 1991 autobiography of Nathan Glenn Williams carried the catchy title, From Alcatraz to the White House.

Williams claimed that, from the time he was a small boy, he had a “burning desire” to be a gangster. As far as he was concerned, he had "seen enough movies” to educate himself in the gangster lifestyle. So, he was convicted of burglary, car theft, robbery, assault and criminal vandalism ... all before he was fifteen years old! After adding forgery, kidnapping and discharging a firearm during the commission of a felony to the list, Williams found himself convicted of being an “habitual criminal.”

A jury of his peers needed only five hours to reach a guilty verdict decision and the judge gave him “life in prison.” During the sentencing, the judge also informed the 23-year old Williams that he was the youngest person in the United States ever to be convicted of being an habitual criminal.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pardoned: Public Goon Number 1

Everyone remembers that Richard Nixon commuted the sentence of Jimmy Hoffa, but few people remember that Gerald Ford pardoned Teamster legend David Beck.

Beck once entertained the idea of going to law school. And he later observed that, given his numerous courtroom appearances, such training “would have come in handy.” But, instead, the path of the high school dropout’s life seemed to be set on December 1, 1924, when he was elected secretary to a Laundry Driver’s Union. Shortly thereafter, Beck attended his first meeting of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and was given a five hundred dollar a month job as part-time general “organizer.” He then became a full-time “organizer” for the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Washington: Reaction to Clemmons

The Seattle Times reports the Maurice Clemmons episode has resulted in at least one piece of legislation. Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220 (aka the "no-bail amendment") was approved with more than 85 percent of the votes. According to the Times:
... it allows a judge to deny bail to persons charged with an offense punishable by life in prison. These include a third-strike felony, rape of a child, murder or other serious crimes. Before denying bail, a judge also must find clear and convincing evidence the defendant has a propensity for violence and poses a likely danger to the public. The no-bail amendment was proposed by lawmakers in direct response to last year's killing of four Lakewood police officers.
See story here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Washington: Stumbling, Bumbling Media

The SeattlePI.com reports that "prospective 2012 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says he would make the same decision" regarding Maurice Clemmons, "if given the same information he had at the time." But the author of the piece cannot create a complete paragraph without screwing up the facts:
Huckabee commented on his decision that freed Maurice Clemmons in a lengthy profile that appears in the June 28 New Yorker.
No, kucklehead. Read the 1,000 articles written on this topic and see if you can't fact check a little better. Huckabee did not "free" Clemmons in any normal sense of the English language. His commutation of sentence simply made Clemmons eligible for parole/release. An official body of individuals made the decision to release Clemmons, not Huckabee.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Washington: Clemency Process On Hold

Jonathan Martin of the Seattle Times has written a somewhat sweeping (and occasionally rambling) article on the use of clemency in the states. It begins by noting Governor Chris Gregoire has granted an "extremely rare" pardon - to a man who was deported after being advised that a guilty plea would result in no punishment at all. Indeed, Martin notes Gregoire had granted clemency 26 times in 53 months, but shut down clemency activity since the media's shoddy treatment of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (in the Maurice Clemmons case). Meanwhile, the states Clemency and Pardons Board has unanimously recommended clemency in at least 14 cases!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Washington: Racing to Irrationality

Now that the media have had a week to misrepresent the commutation of sentence that Mike Huckabee granted almost ten years ago to Maurice Clemmons, we have arrived at assessment stage of the story. Many agree that Huckabee's presidential aspirations are toast. But others are noting something that would be outright hilarious were the matter not so serious. That's right, some are speculating that it may become even more difficult for individuals to get pardons and commutations of sentence! Yes, the Huckabee pardon backlash may lead us to a tremendous crackdown on the exercise of clemency!

Let's see, Barack Obama hasn't granted a single pardon or commutation of sentence in 317 days as president (making him the 5th slowest president of all time). How shall Mr. Obama crack down on clemency? Revoke pardons granted by his predecessors?

We can't blame Washington governor Chris Gregorie for taking a hard line position on clemency, for PR purposes. Gregorie has received only 215 requests for clemency in the five years she has been in office. But, now, we must be all greatly concerned to learn that she, somehow, granted pardons to 26 convicted criminals! We do not know the nature or impact of those 26 decisions, but, if the media's coverage of the Huckabee affair has taught us anything, it is that none of that really matters.

In her favor, Gregoire turned down an board supported clemency application for a convicted murderer who committed the crime. when he was 13. But she must now realize, under the new Huckabee rules, that she is responsible for the actions of the 26 convicted criminals that she pardoned for at least 4-5 more years.

See story here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Washington: Request

KOMO News is reporting on the clemency bid of Mnny Uch, a Cambodian refugee and former gang member who has turned "civic leader." After serving time for driving a getaway car during a robbery, Uch began counselling young people to stay out of trouble. The state Clemency and Pardons Board has unanimously recommended a pardon, something needed in order for Uch to avoid being deported. Gov. Chris Gregoire will now decide Uch's fate. See story here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Washington: Commutation for Three Strikes Offender?

The state's Clemency and Pardons Board has unanimously recommended clemency for Michael Lee Bridges, a three-strikes offender who has been imprisoned for more than 15 years. A county prosecuting attorney is supporting the application but only one other similarly situation prison has ever been released in the States. See story here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Washington: A Rare Release

The Seattle Weekly features a piece on the case of Gerald Hankerson, who was convicted as an accomplice to an aggravated first-degree murder and given a life sentence without the possibility of parole. At the time of the offense, he was only 18. In 2007, the State's clemency board unanimously recommended clemency on his behalf, but the petition was opposed by a prosecutor and members of the victim's family. Last Thursday, however, Hankerson was released - largely on account of the fact that key witnesses against him recanted. See complete article here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Washington: A Tie Vote?

Cal Coburn Brown, who raped and murdered a woman 18 years ago, is scheduled to be executed this Friday. So the recent decision of the State Clemency and Pardons Board was about critical as it could be. Brown's lawyers also raised the issue of their client's sanity at the hearing. But the problem is that some wacko composed the Board with an even number of members and - you guessed it - the Board has rendered a tie vote (2-2). Now, it would appear, the matter is squarely on the shoulders of Governor Chris Gregorie. Meanwhile, the state's Supreme Court and a federal judge are considering separate requests for a stay of execution. See story here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Washington: Prosecutor Calls for Clemency

Today, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, who helped write the State's three strikes law, will argue for the release of Steven Dozier, an individual who was sentenced to life in prison because of the law. Dozier's third strike came on February 1, 1994, when he knocked a 69-year-old woman to the ground, punched her in the face and grabbed her wallet. An automatic life sentence followed. Satterberg, who has spoken to Gov. Christine Gregoire about the case, says the three strikes law "was a reaction to a high rate of violent crime" in the early '90s. But, a "life sentence for a purse-snatching is a disproportionate punishment." In a letter to the chair of the State's Clemency and Pardons Board, Satterberg also says Dozier "has expressed remorse of his crimes many times over the years." The woman Dozier attacked, now 85, opposes his release. See article here.

UPDATE: It is now reported that, after a two hour meeting, the State Clemency and Pardons Board this morning voted 4-0 to recommend that Dozier be released from prison. See article here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Washington: Request

The state Clemency and Pardons Board will consider a petition for clemency for 56-year old Darold Ray Stenson, who is scheduled for execution Wednesday. The Newark Examiner reports that the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has filed the petition on his behalf. Stenson, however, is not asking for pardon because he believes to do so could be viewed as an admission of guilt for a double murder. See story here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Washington: Strike Three. No Mercy?


Stevan Dozier is looking for clemency. His misfortune is that he was convicted 14 years ago under the State's "three strikes and you're out" law. As a consequence, the 46-year old Dozier (a recovering crack addict who used to be all about purse snatching) is looking at a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. If, on the other hand, Mr. Dozier were convicted today, under current practices in Washington, he would be looking at a sentence of about 10 years. A county prosecutor is supporting Dozier's bid for clemency and even encouraged his formal application. On the other hand, the prosecutor who worked on Dozier's case has this to say, "I believe in three strikes, and if anyone deserves it, Mr. Dozier does." See story here.

Dozier has issued the following statement:
I am Stevan Dozier, sentenced to Life Without Parole under the 3 Strikes Law. The crime that I committed is Second Degree Robbery. I am not proud of the fact that 14 years ago I took a purse from a lady. In 1993-94, I was not the same man that I am now. I won't bore you with a story of past substance abuse issues. I will tell you that during the 14 years I have now served, I've learned self worth and self respect as well as how to respect others. I am redeemable. I truly regret the fact that I broke the law. During my incarceration, I have worked and repaid all financial restitution to the present and previous victims of my misbehavior.
Since 1994, many have stepped up to say the crime of Second Degree Robbery does not merit Life Without Parole. Many guards here in the prison say that regularly. The Sentencing Guidelines Commission and several law makers have voiced the need to tune up the 3 Strikes law to ensure that only serious violent individuals receive Life Without Parole under the 3 Strikes Law. Various approaches have been tried only to be met by roadblocks created by misinformation and fear tactics. Yes, the Karl Rove/ George Bush play book is in use in Washington State.
Over the years, I have seen many 3 Strikers give up hope. I have seen rapists, murderers and armed criminals come and go. I've seen serial killers receive plea bargains for the exact sentence that I received for committing a non-armed, non-sexual offense. I know public safety is very important. And I also believe all criminal behavior should be punished in a manner which is proportionate to the offense committed.
The new push of transition re-entry is long overdue. For many years, DOC (Washington Department of Corrections) was all about the warehouse approach. Sending people back to society armed only with a GED and little community resources is a recipe for recidivism.
Prior to my incarceration, I was only concerned with day to day and had no understanding of the political process. Over the years, I have sen lawmakers like Senator Adam Kline stand up and attempt to restore a slight level of proportionality into the sentencing equation. Senator Kline has refused to be deterred by fear tactics and misinformation. Senator Kline has never advocated freeing Murderers or Armed Criminals. At one time, Representative Al O'Brien stood as boldly as Senator Kline. In the last correspondence from Representative O'Brien he stated: "There is not likely to be any change in the 3-Strikes Law until there is a public outcry." My plea and the plea of my loved ones has not been for a "get out of jail free" card.
Our plea has been for lawmakers to restore some level of proportionality into the 3-Strikes sentencing ... For those who are on the fence I ask: Is it a wise investment of your tax dollars to over-incarcerate non-armed, low level offenders for life? Thus far, my 14 years served has cost over 360,000 dollars. This does not include medical costs. --I Am Redeemable... Stevan Dozier
See additional information here.

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