Showing posts with label Wilson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wilson. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Obama v. Wilson. A Contrast in "Record Setting"

Today, the White House proudly announces that President Obama has granted more commutations of sentence than any president in the history of the United States. It is true. With 209 commutations of sentence, today, Obama has officially passed Wilson's mark of 1.366 by 19.

Don't look for any self-congratulatory memos or headlines re Wilson, back in the day. He was just doing his job. And he had been doing it steady, for eight years. Justice was not a last-minute, after thought in his administration so much as it was a daily routine. Here's how Wilson did it:


Here's how Obama worked his way to "record breaking" glory:


We think the data speak for themselves. It's time to move the clemency process out of the DOJ (where it has not always been) and relocate it in the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Obama's Fourth Year Commutation Blitz. How Historic?

While it is true that most presidential terms have featured the highest number of individual clemency grants in the fourth and final year, Bill Clinton's last-minute fiasco was an extremely rare bird. For most presidents, commutations of sentence have been but a tool in an arsenal of clemency options (including pardons, conditional pardons, group pardons - or amnesties - respites and reprieves, remissions of fines and forfeiture, etc.). But, for President Obama, they are damn near everything. Indeed, 91 percent of his clemency grants have been commutations of sentence.

Department of Justice data on the topic are nearly worthless because they are arranged by fiscal year and, in some instance, are not disaggregated when two presidents served in the same fiscal year unit. So, we have disaggregated the data on commutations of sentence and have arranged them by a more meaningful unit of analysis: year of term (below):

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Previous to 1885, the distinction between pardons and commutations of sentence was more vague, but it is safe to say that Woodrow Wilson was setting records as his administration progressed. At first glance, one might guess Obama has set the all-time record for commutations of sentence, but that would be false. Both Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge granted more. They just didn't wait until the very end of their terms to dump a big load of them. Mercy was a regular (monthly) feature of their administrations, not so much an afterthought, or last-minute stunt.

It is safe to say that the President has set a record for the most commutations of sentence granted in a single year - the fourth year of his second term which, of course, is not yet over. As we recently revealed from our own, original data, he has also set a new record for most commutations of sentence granted in a single day

Monday, August 8, 2016

Obama Makes History on Two Fronts

Last Wednesday, President Obama granted 214 commutations of sentence, the most any president has ever granted in a single day. In doing so, he broke Franklin Roosevelt's previous record, of 151.

We searched through our data again and discovered President Obama also set another record: for the largest number of individual acts of clemency (pardons, commutations, remissions of fines and forfeiture, respites, etc.) granted in a single day:

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Prof Mark Osler kindly notes that these data would also exclude (in addition to amnesties, or group pardons) grants by Gerald Ford's Presidential Clemency Board - data which are not compiled in DOJ / OPA clemency warrant records. Interestingly, when recent presidents set these marks, it was hardly noticed and no one had any idea of context, whether or not any record had been set. Having gathered comprehensive original data on clemency, the Editor of this Blog is uniquely qualified to provide that context.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Obama and Other Multiple Term Presidents

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Obama is No Nixon (or Eisenhower)

White House counsel W. Neil Eggleston - and others in the White House - are want to compare President Obama's record on clemency favorably (after almost two full years of zero pardons and commutations of sentence) to the least merciful presidents. Even then, the focus of such "analyses" is but one dimension of clemency (commutations, not pardons). We imagine there are other, less awkward and more enlightening reference points: such as presidents who have, like Obama, have served more than one term:

Click on Image (Above) to Enlarge
Fortunately, Mr. Eggleston, who recently presided over an organizational framework which completely excluded the U.S. Pardon Attorney from communication with the Office of White House Counsel - even when the Deputy Attorney General deep-sixed recommendations for clemency - has told Politico that, in the last months of the administration, the “infrastructure is now very much in place” to file and process clemency petitions and we are all "going to start seeing a lot more very quickly" and "on a more regular basis."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Holder (Obama): Loud. But Outside the Ring.

Shud - dup !
Passionate, sincere-sounding rhetorical efforts clearly predestined to utter and complete failure can be entertaining. The producers of professional wrestling understand this. Their combatants stand high on the ropes, angrily shaking their fists in the air as they tell thousands of people around them to “Shud-dup!” These exercises in mass communication never succeed, to any degree, at any level. Indeed, they guarantee a louder, more disrespectful audience. It is impressive, but humorous, because the result is so predictably unimpressive.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent memo to U.S. attorneys (dated August 12, 2013) has a similar feel. The three-page document, an exhibit in what some hope is a “major shift” in DOJ policy, explains that the exercise of “discretion” in charging decisions is “among the most important duties of a federal prosecutor.” Right away, I wondered, “Is there really a prosecutor somewhere unaware of this?” Holder admonishes U.S. attorneys to evaluate factors in sentencing in a “thoughtful and reasoned manner.” He reminds them sentences should be the product of “individualized assessments” and should “fairly” represent criminal conduct. By the time he instructs them to be “candid” and “accurately calculate” sentencing ranges, one suspects something like disrespect, low-regard, or - at the very least - documented, empirical assessment of poor job performance. One could almost imagine the memo’s author on the top rope, calling millions of people a “nation of cowards”!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Top Ten Clemency Stories of 2011

10. The West Memphis Three - The Three served almost 18 years before a plea deal allowed for their release. But, Governor Mike Beebe - one of the Nation's most steady dispensers of gubernatorial clemency - announced that he had no intention of granting a pardon. And he will only grant a pardon if there is "compelling evidence" that "someone else was responsible" for the murders the men were accused of.

9. 100,000 Application Backlog in Florida - The Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, a group which aims to have the State's Board of Executive Clemency "simplify" (and speed up) the application process estimates a backlog of 100,000 applications!

8. December Clemency - A study published by the author of this blog, in White House Studies, shows that 1 of every 2 pardons and commutations of sentence granted over the last 39 years has been granted in a single month: December.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Ken Burns' "Prohibition": Epic Fail

Part Two of Ken Burns' latest film, Prohibition, aired tonight on PBS. This part of the series highlighted the tension between the Eighteenth ( or "Prohibition") Amendment (1919) and the Volstead Act, but completely failed to mention the fact that President Woodrow Wilson vetoed the Volstead Act (or National Prohibition Act). Congress overrode Wilson's veto within two days, however, and the game was on.

Consequently, filmaker Burns also failed to mention the fact that President Wilson set records in his use of the pardon power and a very large number of his pardons were granted to persons that violated laws related to drugs and intoxicating liquors.

Indeed, the only mention of presidential pardons (in this, THE Golden Age of presidential pardons) that Burns makes in the entire episode relates to the unsubstantiated rumors the Warren Harding's Attorney General, Harry Daugherty, sold pardons.

What a shame it is to see such an acclaimed filmaker miss such important marks in an elaborate effort.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

DOJ McJustice: "Not So Fast, Robertson!"

We are reminded of an old Army joke ... Everyone is quite concerned to learn that Private Robertson's mother, back home, has died. No one is sure how to break the news to him, because Robertson is huge, very emotional and prone to violence. The new Drill Instructor Schwartz steps up and says, "I'll take care of it. Don't worry about it. I'm all over it." The next morning, Schwartz yells his frightened men into line and barks at them, "If you are planning to visit your mom, at home, this Mother's Day, take one step forward! NOW!" As soldiers are stumbling over each other in confusion and stepping forward in great haste, Schwartz yells, "Not so fast, Robertson!"

Monday, May 23, 2011

Obama: Just Too Busy for Mercy

James Buchanan granted 25 presidential pardons from the time South Carolina seceded from the Union and the Confederate States of America were formed (February 1861).

Abraham Lincoln took the time to grant 5 pardons in July of 1861, following the disastrous showing of Federal troops in the Battle of the First Bull Run. In early 1862, he granted 7 pardons while his 11-year old son, Willie, suffered (and eventually died) from typhoid fever. Lincoln also granted 3 pardons during the week of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jin Fuey Moy: The President Responds

In the first post in this series (here), we explained the background of the conviction of Jin Fuey Moy and Willie Martin for violation of the Act to Provide for the Registration of, with Collectors of Internal Revenue, and to Impose a Special Tax Upon, All Persons Who Produce, Import, Manufacture, Compound, Deal in, Dispense, Sell, Distribute, or Give Away Opium or Cocoa Leaves, Their Salts, Derivatives, or Preparations, and for Other Purposes. In the second post (here), we explained how the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Martin's conviction on the premise that the Act did not intend to punish mere possession of the drugs in question - United States v. Jin Fuey Moy 241 U.S. 394 (1916).

The Court's opinion was announced on June 5th. That happened to be the same day that, in Ohio, George Karch and Louis Huff were both sentenced to 13 months in prison for mere possession of morphine.  But at least 50 other indiviuals had already been sent to prison for the same offense. And almost every single one of them was still behind bars. What was to happen to them?

Before the month was up President Wilson pardoned three individuals serving combined sentences of 66 months for possession of morphine. Because all three men were still in prison at the time of the pardon, almost 35 combined years of sentences were commuted by Wilson and the civil rights of all three men were, simultaneously, also restored.

12 similar pardons followed in July, and 23 more were granted in August. Almost 4 years of Thomas Flint's sentence were commuted. Victor Sprague was pardoned a mere 38 days after sentencing. William Reilly waited 1,135 days. Before it was over, sentences of 27, 30, 36 and 48 months were commuted by the President. Wilson eventually commuted more than three decades of prison sentences handed down previous to the Court's ruling in Jin Fuey Moy. Which is to say, the pardon power was employed exactly as the Founding Fathers had intended it to be employed. President Obama could stand to learn more about the matter!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jin Fuey Moy in the Supreme Court

In a previous post (here), we outlined the background of the case against Jin Fuey Moy, who was convicted of 8 counts of violating of the Act to Provide for the Registration of, with Collectors of Internal Revenue, and to Impose a Special Tax Upon, All Persons Who Produce, Import, Manufacture, Compound, Deal in, Dispense, Sell, Distribute, or Give Away Opium or Cocoa Leaves, Their Salts, Derivatives, or Preparations, and for Other Purposes. The prosecution also went after one of Dr. Moy's patients, an addict named Willie Martin.

On December 12, 1915, the case was argued before the United States Supreme Court and a decision was handed down on June 5, 1916 - United States v. Jin Fuey Moy 241 U.S. 394 (1916). The Court overturned the conviction of Willie Martin in a 7-2 vote. The fairly brief majority opinion was written by Justice Holmes.

Holmes and four other justices concluded that the federal law's concern over "any person" that was not "registered" was not meant to mean "all persons" in the United States who possessed "Opium or Cocoa Leaves, Their Salts, Derivatives, or Preparations." Instead, as the clear title of the Act suggests, the concern was for persons who "Produce, Import, Manufacture, Compound, Deal in, Dispense, Sell, Distribute, or Give Away" such materials. It was clearly that more narrow class of persons whom the Act required to register and pay a tax. Consequently, it was not the intent of Congress to brand "the probably very large proportion of citizens who [had] some preparation of opium in their possession" as "criminal."

A large number of prosecutions were "held up" in anticipation of the Court's decision. And it was roundly criticized for rendering the law "ineffective." The Secretary for the Treasury complained that the Court's decision made enforcement of the Harrison Narcotics Act "more difficult" and "handicapped" those who were working to suppress "the drug evil" in this country.  A Report to the Commissioner for Internal Revenue felt the decision made it "practically impossible" to control "illicit drug traffic." But, for many, an obvious - and more pertinent - question followed: What about persons, both in and out of the Nation's prisons, already convicted?

Coming Next: The President Responds

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, December 16, 2010

The Conservative Case for the Pardon Power

Right On Crime (added to our blog listing) is a new site which claims to focus on "Conservative" views of the criminal justice system. In particular, it takes an interest in reducing crime, reducing the costs of criminal justice, reforming past offenders, restoring victims and protecting communities. In its Statement of Principles, the site notes that "Conservatives are known for being tough on crime," but argues it is also vital to achieve "a cost-effective system that protects citizens, restores victims, and reforms wrongdoers." In addition:
The corrections system should emphasize public safety, personal responsibility, work, restitution, community service, and treatment—both in probation and parole, which supervise most offenders, and in prisons. An ideal criminal justice system works to reform amenable offenders who will return to society through harnessing the power of families, charities, faith-based groups, and communities.
With these very concerns (and others) in mind, here are some reasons why Conservatives should favor well-articulated clemency policies which 1) regularize the process and minimize the tendency toward last-minute blitzes 2) restore a proper balance between the branches of government 3) address the specific concerns of Conservatives and 4) re-educate the American public as to the significance of the pardon power:

Reason 1: The pardon power is explicitly vested in the President of the United States by Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution. It is not derived from a so-called "elastic clause" or inferred from penumbras emanating from the Bill of Rights. The pardon power is not the result of a "test" imposed by judicial fiat, or a goal-oriented construction of the traditions and conscience of the people, or tortured divination of what is implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. It is a power explicitly granted and as firmly entrenched in the Constitution as the provisions creating a House and Senate and the federal judiciary.

Reason 2: In addition to being an explicit feature of our Constitution, the Founding Fathers made a conscious effort to emphasize the importance of this power. Federalist 74 (authored by Alexander Hamilton, who argued for the pardon power in his first speech at the Constitutional Convention) notes that pardons are a logical by-product of "humanity and good policy." Why? Because "the criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity." The cure for this tendency? "Easy access" (yes, you read that right), "easy access" to "exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt." Otherwise, says Federalist 74, "justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel."

Reason 3: The pardon power is not a fetish of ancient monarchs that accidentally crept its way into the Constitution. It is an important part of our system of checks and balances. Although political scientists have long recognized that our government more accurately features "shared" powers (as opposed to truly "separated" powers), the fact of the matter is that each branch has its unassailable weapon in the system of checks and balances. The Supreme Court has judicial review. Congress has the spending power. The president has the pardon power. For centuries, pardons have made up for the lack of flexibility in laws, anticipating - long before Congress - such considerations as reformation and rehabilitation, the juvenile status of offenders, the possibility of insanity, the considerable costs of incarceration, degrees of guilt in relation to murder, etc. Of course, pardons have also been used to blunt the impact of imperfect decision making in the judicial branch. To be sure, Conservative Presidents - for whatever reason - can neglect this power. But they do so at a cost to our political system and in direct contradiction to the intent of the Founding Fathers.

Reason 4: Conservatives have long recognized the importance of incentives, even in the arena of crime and criminal justice. But the public (and, evidently, most in the news media) doesn't seem to be aware of the fact that the typical (as in well over 95 percent) recipient of a presidential (or gubernatorial) pardon, today (and for the last several decades), is someone who has already served their time (if there was any time to serve), has taken care of all associated fines and penalties, and has integrated back into the community as a law-abiding citizen. That is to say, presidential pardons are not springing hardened professional gangland criminals from our prisons and tossing them into the streets, or overturning the judgement of judges and juries. The impact of pardons is to simply restore the civil rights of applicants. The pardon allows them to vote again, serve on a jury, run for public office, own a hunting rifle, etc. The problem is, today, the typical presidential pardon is also granted more than two decades after the offense, when the applicant is probably in his/her 60's or 70's. This, in itself, prompts many to ask, "Why bother? Why does a person even want a pardon?" It is clear that presidential pardons, if granted on a more regular basis, and in a more relevant manner, could provide powerful incentives for hopeful recipients to demonstrate just the kind of reform Conservatives (and every American) should desire.

Reason 5: "Controversial" acts of clemency get the lion's share of attention from the news media, and reasonably so. But this kind of attention invariably warps the public's general perception of pardons and, to some extent, the perceptions of politicians (who tend to view pardons as huge political risks requiring some grand expenditure of political capital). But Conservatives should give a long hard look at recent pardon "controversies." Yes, Democratic presidents have dropped some stink bombs along the way. But, on the Republican side, there is Richard Nixon, the Iran-Contra figures, Scooter Libby, etc. These pardons have all had a distinct "political" feel to them. Indeed, along the way, Republicans frequently expressed concern that Democrats were hunting for "show trials" and "criminalizing" policy differences. If there is even the slightest element of truth to these claims, we must seriously ask: Where would this country be, today, without the pardon power?

Reason 6: Conservatives and Liberals may differ as to the effectiveness of the War on Drugs, but no one doubts that it has failed to accomplish all that was hoped for and that it is very costly. Recently, Democrats and Republicans rolled back the 100 to 1 disparity in crack cocaine sentencing, reducing the ratio to 18 to 1. While the criminal justice system is likely to be more fair, as a result, even the most basic notions of justice (Conservative or Liberal) demand that we now consider the circumstances of those who were convicted under the previous legislation (almost 30,000 inmates). Congress has probably done all that it is going to do in this matter. It is the president who should now consider the careful, systematic use of the pardon power (or, more specifically, commutations of sentence) in individual cases - at a minimum - for first time, non-violent offenders who have already served considerable sentences and show evidence of rehabilitation (just as an example). In addition to approximating fairness, such use of the pardon power could save tax payers millions of dollars.

Reason 7: In recent years, some Conservatives have rethought their position on the death penalty. On the surface, it does seem quite odd that an ideology which seems to instinctively distrust the government would express such enthusiastic support for a process like capital punishment. Conservatives loath the growth of government and the expansion of its power. Catch phrases like "the nanny state" and "over-criminalization" are often employed by Conservative columnists. Or, in the very words of Right on Crime:
Thousands of harmless activities are now classified as crimes in the United States. These are not typical common law crimes such as murder, rape, or theft. Instead they encompass a series of business activities such as importing orchids without the proper paperwork, shipping lobster tails in plastic bags, and even failing to return a library book. There are over 4,000 existing federal criminal laws. (The exact number of laws is unknown because the attorneys at Congressional Research Service who were assigned to count them ran out of resources before they could complete the herculean task.)

In addition to the profusion of federal statutory crimes, there are additional state crimes (Texas alone has over 1,700), and federal regulatory offenses (approximately 300,000). The creation of these often unknowable and redundant crimes, the federalization of certain crimes traditionally prosecuted at the state level, and the removal of traditional mens rea requirements all contribute to a relentless trend known as overcriminalization.
Message to Conservatives: When George Washington worried that the government's charges of treason against the Whiskey Rebels were too Draconian, he pardoned them. When Thomas Jefferson thought the Alien Sedition Acts went too far, he promised, if elected, to pardon those who were convicted. As soon as he became president he pardoned the last individuals who were still being held for writing bad things about John Adams. When Woodrow Wilson had his veto of the Volstead Act overridden, he set records for pardons of individuals who violated drug and alcohol laws. When John F. Kennedy thought mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders were too harsh, he granted pardons accordingly. Jimmy Carter promised a blanket amnesty for Vietnam draft offenders and delivered. It is quite obvious that, if Conservative presidents (and governors) ever decide to get serious about addressing the problems associated with government overreach, the pardon power is there, waiting.

Reason 8: Since the "law and order" campaigns of Richard Nixon, Conservatives have placed every seemingly "soft on crime" politician on the radar. When crime was among the highest concerns of Americans in Gallup polls (the 1960s and 1970s), it was clearly a strategy that worked, at many levels. Would Conservative presidents be going "soft" on crime if they granted pardons - as most presidents have throughout history - frequently, and on a regular basis throughout, the calendar year? There is certainly no doubt that someone, somewhere will make the accusation, especially if a single pardon recipient (out of no matter how many hundreds, or thousands) commits an additional offense. On the other hand, if pardons are granted more frequently, and on a regular basis, the American public (and the media) will quickly learn what has largely been forgotten: again, the typical pardon does not spring anyone from prison. It simply restores rights. An additional benefit of a more regular use of the pardon power is that pardons granted to the president's friends, fellow partisans and political supporters (all of which deserve justice and fair consideration as much as anyone else) will appear less significant. In general, the fewer pardons granted, the more obnoxious such pardons will appear (rightly or wrongly).

Should Conservatives take the lead on this matter? Should they take the risk, when it is much easier to simply do nothing? For the sake of the purity of our political system, in order to benefit from the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, in order to pursue justice and economic efficiency in the criminal justice system and in order to better articulate concerns with / and combat the ever invasive expansion of government ... the answer is clearly "yes."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kansas: Remembering "Red Kate"

Kate Richards O’Hare (a.k.a. “Red Kate”) was the first “important” figure to be indicted under the Espionage Act. She was born in 1876 on a farm in Ottawa County, Kansas, and spent some time as a schoolteacher and bookkeeper before becoming a machinist’s apprentice. As a result, she was one of the first female members of the International Association of Machinists. The young Richard's was also deeply religious (Campbellite Disciple of Christ) and active in the Florence Crittenton Mission and Home and the Kansas City Crittenton Mission. Her sympathies were particularly directed toward the problems of alcoholism and prostitution.

She also began to familiarize herself with the writings of Henry George and attended union meetings. But the critical event in Richard's life was a dance, which featured a speech by the legendary socialist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. The seventy-year-old Jones referred Richards to other prominent socialists and she joined a socialist group. In 1901, she enrolled in the first class of the International School of Socialist Economy, a “training school” for Socialist party workers. One year later, Richards married one of her twenty-four fellow students, Frank P. O’Hare. It actually took the two young socialists all of four days to realize that they were meant to be married (they divorced in 1938).

Mrs. O’Hare’s fame and popularity as a socialist speaker increased considerably. She was soon considered second only to Eugene V. Debs so, in 1910, a run for public office only seemed logical. O'Hare was actually the first woman to ever to run for Congress in the state of Kansas. Three socialists were already in the state legislature, but O’Hare gathered a mere five percent of the vote in a four-candidate race. She later ran for a position on the board of education in St. Louis and became the first woman to run for the United States Senate. O'Hare also ran for a seat in the Missouri state legislature. But the popularity and interest generated by her public speaking never seemed to translate into high levels of support in voting booths.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Obama: 60 Days from Making History

President Barack Obama has now gone 612 days without granting a single presidential pardon or commutation of sentence. Almost 2,000 applications are pending and a couple of thousand more are new and fresh.

In 60 days, however, President Obama will pass Bill Clinton (whose administration made quite the mark when it came to pardons), and will become the slowest Democratic President in American history to discover the clemency power.

It only took John F. Kennedy 19 days to do so. Carter waited 82 days. Harry Truman needed only 8 days after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, and only 6 days after being elected. Woodrow Wilson took only 9 days. Lyndon Johnson only waited 30 days after the death of John F. Kennedy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Director Who Could (or Would) Not Count

Robert Kennedy once boasted that he and his brother “made a real major effort and really major breakthrough” when it came to pardons and commutations. The notion was certainly enhanced by James V. Bennett’s 1970 book entitled I Chose Prison. Bennett, who served as Director of the Bureau of Prisons from 1937 to 1964, praised Kennedy for his exceptional “compassion.” He also claimed that his fellow Democrat “used his powers of granting executive clemency more often than any other President in our history.”

The observation may have appeared all the more impressive by the fact that, at the time Bennett’s book was published, the pardoning power seemed to be a thing of the past. Lyndon Johnson granted no pardons in the last seven months of his administration and Richard Nixon pardoned no one in his first nine months as president.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Chart: Most Pardons Granted in a Singled Day




Click on chart to enlarge.

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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