Showing posts with label Wisconsin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wisconsin. Show all posts

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wisconsin Public Radio: On Scott Walker, Making a Murderer and Pardons

This afternoon, Thursday, January 21, 2016, at 4:00 pm (Central) the Editor of this blog will be a guest on "Central Time," a production of Wisconsin Public Radio.

The host, Veronica Rueckert, will focus the discussion on the pardon power and, in particular, Governor Scott Walker's explicit promise not to use it.

Prof. Ruckman will explain the constitutional value of pardons, discuss Walker's stance and discuss clemency in relation to the "Making a Murderer" series on Netflix. Callers will be welcomed.

Interested readers may tune into the broadcast online here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Wisconsin: "Making A Murderer"

The buzz is all about "Making a Murderer." Admittedly, we have not seen it. But, we have a very strong sense that the production convinces many viewers that Steven Avery was not guilty of the murder of a 25-year old female photographer in the State of Wisconsin, in 2005, or - at the very least - he received nothing like due process of law on the way to his conviction and life sentence.

The logical reaction? A call for mercy! Indeed, a petition for Avery's pardon - originally addressed to President Obama - now sits at Change.org (see / sign it here).

It would be shame to miss what this developing story has shown us already!

First, It shows that the news media's constant reference to the President's pardon power as "kingly" and as something that was developed in Great Britain has an impact. If Obama is a king, or very much like a king, then why can't he pardon Avery? The answer, of course, is that the pardon power, here, today, in America, is a very logical part of a system of separation of powers and checks and balances, nested in a federal system. The President, very much unlike the King of England circa 1400, is constitutionally limited to pardons for federal crimes (except in cases of impeachment) and in the District of Columbia. He cannot pardon state offenses.

Second, Avery's case makes even more plain how asinine Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's no-pardons-in-any-circumstance "policy" is. To be sure, other governors employ the same policy, functionally, but he (Walker) is the only one who brays about it openly. Walker will not mind his constitutional duty to pardon in any single instance - he says - because it would require him (to be fair) to consider other applications, potentially by equally deserving applicants. OMG! Walker's position is: God forbid anything like a spurt of justice would occur in Wisconsin. Not on Walker's watch!

We do not feel the need to take a position on Avery's innocence or guilt, but the fact that such details are trifling and irrelevant to Gov. Scott Walker is well worth noting ... over and over and over ...

Friday, December 18, 2015

National Journal on Clemency in the States

The National Journal is featuring a piece on clemency in the states and the case of one Lydia Garcia Ortiz in particular. Garcia was charged for "lead­ing a ring that traf­ficked an es­tim­ated $5 mil­lion of co­caine from New York City to Rochester." At the time, New York's Rock­e­feller drug laws "im­posed severe sen­tences for non­vi­ol­ent drug crimes." A judge offered a three year sentence for her testimony or a prediction of twenty five years if she insisted on a trial. So, Garcia fled, and remained a fugitive for 14 years, until 2003, when she was 58 years old. Garcia stepped out of prison in October of 2015, her sentence commuted by Governor Cuomo.

Re clemency in the states, the piece observes:
... In re­cent dec­ades, an era where politi­cians don’t want to be seen as soft on crime, the clem­ency power has be­come polit­ic­ally dan­ger­ous, ex­plained P.S. Ruck­man, Jr., polit­ic­al-sci­ence pro­fess­or at North­ern Illinois Uni­versity and au­thor of the Par­don Power Blog.
The most ex­treme ‘no clem­ency’ state is Wis­con­sin, where Walk­er has made it a policy to not grant any. “There are oth­er gov­ernors who may have the same at­ti­tude, but they don’t an­nounce it. They just don’t par­don people, or they par­don very rarely,” Ruck­man said. But he said there is no state where the gov­ernor is known for “hand­ing clem­en­cies out like candy.”
Though it hasn’t made sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­ence in the num­bers yet, Ruck­man thinks that there is a shift in na­tion­al at­ti­tudes to­wards clem­en­cies. In New York, the fact that a gubernat­ori­al hope­ful, Zephyr Teachout, stood for clem­ency re­form, he says, is telling. New Jer­sey Gov­ernor, Chris Christie, who is seek­ing the Re­pub­lic­an Party nom­in­a­tion for pres­id­ent, re­cently pardoned a man for a drug re­lated of­fense, say­ing, “This is no gift from me. This is something John’s earned.” 
Ruck­man’s home state of Illinois, has seen a bit of change in par­don­ing cul­ture over the past few gubernat­ori­al terms. Fol­low­ing the now-in­car­cer­ated former gov­ernor Rod Blago­jevich, who gran­ted zero clem­en­cies dur­ing his term, Pat Quinn, a Demo­crat, gran­ted 1,752 re­quests and denied 3,014—a rate of grants re­por­ted to be among the highest for any gov­ernor at that time. The cur­rent gov­ernor, Bruce Rau­ner, a Re­pub­lic­an, has taken steps to main­tain a healthy clem­ency sys­tem. Rau­ner re­views ap­plic­a­tions on a reg­u­lar cycle. Since tak­ing of­fice last Janu­ary, he has gran­ted 21 clem­en­cies, in four batches.
... A healthy clem­ency sys­tem, Ruck­man said, is one that re­views ap­plic­a­tions in a sys­tem­at­ic fash­ion on a reg­u­lar basis. He points to Arkan­sas as a good ex­ample of a state where par­dons are giv­en at a healthy rate. “In Arkan­sas, the gov­ernors reg­u­larly par­don—not hun­dreds of thou­sands, but two here five here, ten there, that type of thing,” he said.

See full article here.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Wisconsin: Walker, Still On Dumb

We have repeatedly noted that, while more than a few state governors are neglecting to use the pardon power, Scott Walker's neglect is particularly egregious because he has yet to - and, evidently, cannot - articulate anything like an intelligent, policy-based reason for it.

Initially, Walker launched the boiler-plate / sensationalist goo: it isn't right to "interfere" with the considered judgement of judges and juries. In addition to exhibiting cluelessness as to the constitutional role of executives in systems of separation of powers and checks and balances, Walker's gas ignored the fact that almost anyone can discover - with even an ounce of careless research: most (as in 90 plus percent) pardons (state and federal) do not interfere with, or overturn, the judgement of judges or juries, much less spring violent criminals from our prisons, launching them into our streets to rape and pillage fearful citizens, eager and ready to vote for law-and-order / John Wayne posers.

No - Scott Walker's blithe nonsense notwithstanding - pardons simply restore the civil rights of persons who have just about always committed minor / non-violent offenses, years (often decades) ago, have served their time (if they ever even had any to server) and have established themselves as law-abiding citizens. No one's judgement is being interfered with, much less overturned. If anything, the decision making of the criminal process is validated by pardon. A pardons says sentences were right, fair, just and enough!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wisconsin: The Costs (Foolishness) of Walker's Neglect.

Scott "No Mercy" Walker
Gov. Scott Walker has made his position on executive clemency clear. The State Constitution explicitly invites the governor to participate in popular American notion of "checks and balances" by providing him with the pardon power - a power many other Wisconsin governors have used, repeatedly, and without much controversy. But, to all of that, Walker says, "Whatever."

Governor Walker further justifies this statesmanlike stance by arguing that doing justice in one case might require him to consider justice in another case - something for which he, apparently, has neither time nor interest.

Too bad for people like Jessica Cranfield. Channel 3000.com reports that, when she was 17 years old, Cranfield "committed a number of crimes, including stealing a purse and clearing a bank account of $100 to buy drugs." The result was a prison sentence of two years. Now, almost 30 years old, Cranfield is married, with children, and working toward a bachelor's degree in education. She hasn't had a brush with the law since she was a 17 year old kid.

No matter. As she notes, "It's very difficult to get a job if you have any type of criminal conviction ... but a felony basically guarantees that you won't." Governor Walker's view of persons like her?
"No, they can get jobs, they just can't get jobs in an area that prevents them access because of their felony conviction ... But they are not limited in other ways." 
It just goes to show that one can never overestimate the patently ridiculous nature of Scott Walker's position on clemency. See story here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Times on: Pizer, Gov. Walker and Mercy

While we have certainly done our share of blasting away at Gov. Scott Walker's No Consideration of Clemency for Anyone Policy, we are pleased to see the New York Times take interest. 

Today, a story recounts a meeting between "a former Marine (Eric Pizer), who threw the right jab just days after returning from a second deployment" and his victim "who has not breathed the same since." As the Times puts it:

The ex-Marine, Eric Pizer, seeks a pardon because he aches with remorse, and because his one-punch felony conviction means that he cannot possess or own a gun, disqualifying him from his desired career in law enforcement. He has only one smudge on his record. “This one night,” he said. “This one time.” 
It all happened a decade ago, but there is "one problem"
The governor of Wisconsin is Scott Walker, a possible Republican contender for president who, since taking office in 2011, has declined to exercise his power of pardon, which the Wisconsin Constitution describes as “an official act of forgiveness.” With the Pizer case emerging as a cause célèbre in Wisconsin, the governor has defended his no-pardon policy, saying that he sees no reason to “undermine” the criminal justice system — no matter that pardons were frequently granted by at least the last five governors before him. 
Indeed, Governor Walker rationalizes his neglect of clemency processes by admitting that there are thousands of persons in his State "who probably have a compelling case to be made that we don’t know about.” 

This piece ends wonderfully:

They talked some more. Then Mr. Pizer asked for forgiveness. About 85 miles to the east, in the Capitol in Madison, the power of forgiveness goes untapped. But here in Boscobel, Mr. Frazier studied the penitent ex-Marine before him, and then said it: “I forgive you.” Mr. Pizer felt a release, and stuck out his right hand. It was received in a good, firm grip. 
See Times story here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gov. Mike Beebe, Who Does He Think He Is?

Gov. Mike Beebe
Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe just doesn't get it.

The man uses the clemency power, a check and balance explicitly provided to him by his State's Constitution, on a regular basis, yes, even monthly! For some reason(s), he does not do nothing for many months in a row - like many State governors, and the President of the United States. Nor does Beebe simply wait until December to grant pardons. Why, he isn't even waiting until the last days and hours of his term to dump pardons (in the manner of Haley Barbour). This man, Beebe, is granting pardons right and left, as though the power given to him was meant to be used - not neglected for long periods of time, or abused.

Apparently, Beebe has not gotten the memo, informing him that, if he is not careful, he might be "Willie Hortoned"! Richard Nixon outlawed coddling up to criminals in the late 1960s. Who doesn't know this?

Beebe does not seem to comprehend that critics will eagerly misrepresent his decisions as having overruled the decision making of judges and juries. Why, even Governor Scott Walker (Wisconsin) gets this, and refuses to even allow the great American tradition of executive clemency to be anywhere near his State's criminal justice system. George Washington and James Madison may have coddled up to Whiskey Rebels and Baratarian Pirates, but the legendary contributor to the Republic, Scott Walker, is no such wimp.

Beebe's pardons fall so regularly, in such an even-handed manner, why, one suspects he sees clemency as a regular part of the business of being governor and that, perhaps, he may even have a systematic approach to what he is doing, maybe even a clear set of standards. How in the world can this kind focus and rationality be tolerated even as Mitt Romney brags about having pardoned no one? It is baffling.

Google away looking for stories of how Beebe's pardons have "backfired" - how he has sprung violent criminals from prisons for no apparent reason, only to see them reek havoc on society once again. Google away. It is almost like there is nothing there. Nothing whatsoever. How is Beebe getting away with this, month after month, year after year? It is downright baffling.

One has to wonder: how many other governors could be doing this?

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe’s
Clemency Record
Month
Year
Pardons / Commutations
April
2014
10
March
2014
9
February
2014
5
January
2014
4
December
2013
7
November
2013
3
October
2013
7
September
2013
7
August
2013
3
July
2013
4
June
2013
7
May
2013
8
April
2013
6
March
2013
8
February
2013
5
January
2013
3
December
2012
7
November
2012
7
October
2012
7
September
2012
4
August
2012
5
July
2012
6
June
2012
9
May
2012
7
April
2012
7
March
2012
6
February
2012
7
January
2012
4

172

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wisconsin: Calling the Governor

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is "once again" urging Gov. Scott Walker "to consider granting pardons to some felons." The organization's board has adopted a "resolution" also urging Walker "to appoint members to a Pardon Board and begin considering applications for pardons." The resolution also noted pardons have been "accepted as playing an important role in the this country's system of criminal justice since the days of the Founding Fathers" and that failure to pardon "runs contrary to the values of compassion and justice inherent in Wisconsin's criminal justice system."

The Journal Sentinel reports that more than 1,400 applications for clemency have been made to Walker, but he has not used the clemency power once since taking office. It is also reported that the resolution "notes that all U.S. presidents have granted pardons" (which is not correct) and that previous governors of Wisconsin governors - of both parties - have as well.  See story here.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Scott Walker: The Kind of Guy the Founding Fathers Despised

Casey J. Hoff, a criminal defense attorney in Wisconsin, has an editorial at The Cap Times, which observes Governor Scott Walker "is the first Wisconsin governor who has stated that he will not pardon a single person during his governorship" (although clarity on such important issues is not exactly Walker's forte). See our own take on all of this nonsense here.

Guided by his profound insight that "The only people seeking pardons are people who are guilty," Governor Walker has granted zero pardons since taking office in 2011. Nor has he appointed any members to the State's Pardon Advisory Board.

Hoff notes - as we have - that a Wisconsin pardon simply "restores a person’s rights lost due to a felony conviction." Consequently:
Pardoning a person in no way undermines the criminal justice system, unless the governor believes that the Wisconsin Constitution undermines it ... Pardoning is part and parcel of our system of justice, as it affords people who have reformed their lives a measure of justice that the courts cannot provide. In Wisconsin, a pardon does not erase a conviction. Instead, a pardon restores rights to a person, such as the rights to possess firearms, hold public office, become a police officer, and work in certain medical fields. 
Hoff also explores Walker's second "reason" for neglecting his duty as governor. Walker believes "courts have ways of dealing with people who are innocent." But, again, bringing it down to a level that even a third grader could understand, Hoff writes:
The point of a pardon, however, is not to say that the person being pardoned is innocent. Rather, pardons are an act by the governor to forgive a person for a past transgression in cases where the person has truly reformed and led an exemplary life since a felony conviction. By refusing to even consider pardoning anyone, Walker is putting aside an important constitutional power and missing an opportunity to give worthy, rehabilitated people a second chance. 
Hoff then summarizes the case of one Eric Pizer of Madison,  Marine-Combat veteran who was deployed twice deployed to the Middle East - the second time on a volunteer basis. Prizer led Marines into battle for our county and, now, wants to serve his community as a police officer." The only thing between him and a life of continued productivity and service is a punch that he threw, during a bar fight, almost a decade ago.

The Founding Fathers put the pardon power in the United States Constitution because they believed in separation of powers and checks and balances. From their English and Christian heritage, the took the basic notion that not all punishments are (should be) eternal. They believed there was a time for forgiving, redemption and recognition of rehabilitation. Thus, they included the pardon power in the very text of the Constitution to be used, not to be avoided at all costs (or out of convenience, or for political expediency).

In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton observed the criminal codes of nations have an almost natural tendency toward over-severity. Can anyone seriously disagree with that? So, Hamilton argued, there should be "easy access" to mercy.  That's right, "EASY ACCESS."

Imagine Scott Walker explaining to Alexander Hamilton that pardon applicants are "guilty!" Oh, the humanity! Someone with true, sincere, informed love for our Nation's founding / founders needs to primary Scott Walker. See Hoff's full editorial here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wisconsin: Walker Brays On

In November of last year, Karley Downing, Assistant Legal Counsel to Governor Scott Walker Walker, informed a clemency applicant that State's "pardon process" had been "suspended indefinitely." As such, "no new applications [would] be accepted" (see correspondence here).

Then, in January, WQOW 18 reported Walker - who has not granted a single pardon since he entered office - had actually not "suspended the state's pardons process." He "just [wasn't] isn't issuing any." To make matters worse, Walker offered this bone-headed explanation for his behavior:
The criminal justice system has a process by which, if someone's innocent, they can be granted a change in their sentence based upon the court system. They handle that ... The only people seeking pardons are people who are guilty and I don't have any reason to undermine the criminal justice system.
Hopefully someone has explained the difference between a pardon and a commutation of sentence to the Governor since then! But, now, the San Francisco Chronicle (via the Associated Press) reports Walker has "refused to consider any of at least 1,400 pardon applications since he's taken office" (almost 700 of which were filed during his administration). This, of course, seems consistent with the fact that he created a "pardon advisory board" (in March 2011) but has appointed no one to it since! As for previous governors of Wisconsin:
Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson and his successor, Republican Scott McCallum, issued a combined 86 pardons from 1994 through 2002. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle issued three times as many, granting nearly 300 during his eight years in office. About a third of his pardons came during the last 3½ months of his tenure.
Walker offered additional explanation for his failure to exercise this traditional check and balance in this new interview with the AP:
I just look at (granting pardons) and say that's not really why I ran for office. It's not what I campaigned on. It's not what I talked about ... To me, the only people who are seeking pardons are people who have been guilty of a crime and I have a hard time undermining the actions of a jury and of a court.
So, it appears the governor's nonsensical remarks were not unscripted. They are talking points! The poor fellow doesn't seem to know that pardons do not spring guilty persons from prison and toss them in the street to do more violence to potential voters and donors. There is little or no doubt that the vast majority of applications that he has on his desk are from persons who committed minor offense, for the first time, years ago, and have integrated themselves back into society as law-abiding, productive members. They are not asking Walker to overturn the decision making of judges and juries. They are simply asking the bonehead to restore their civil rights.

Of course, one also wonders what other powers Walker is ignoring / neglecting because he didn't have sound bites for them during the campaign  He can rightfully claim that he expressed no interest in Justice (much less Mercy) as a candidate. Impressive. See full story here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Wisconsin: Scott Walker, Blithering Pardon Idiot

WQOW 18 reports that Gov. Scott Walker says he "hasn't suspended the state's pardons process, he just isn't issuing any." This is, of course, in direct contradiction to a November 1, 2012 letter written by Karley Downing, the Assistant Legal Counsel in his own office, which says that the State's "pardon process" has been "suspended indefinitely" (see the letter here).

To make matters worse, Walker attempted to justify his misrepresentation on these grounds:
"The criminal justice system has a process by which, if someone's innocent, they can be granted a change in their sentence based upon the court system. They handle that ... The only people seeking pardons are people who are guilty and I don't have any reason to undermine the criminal justice system,"
This perhaps explains why Walker has never bothered to appoint anyone to the State's Pardon Advisory Board.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wisconsin: Walker Suspends Justice "Indefinitely"

We are informed that a recent clemency applicant in Wisconsin received a letter from Karley Downing, the Assistant Legal Counsel in Governor Scott Walker's office, informing him that the State's "pardon process" has been "suspended indefinitely." As such, "no new applications will be accepted."

Hopefully DNA will not prove anyone innocent any time soon because, well, that will be just too bad for them!

See letter on the left.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Barrett Attempts to "Bush" Walker

For decades, political scientists have been concerned that the media generally cannot be relied upon to report on matters related to executive clemency without misrepresentation, egregious errors of omission, sensationalism and the like. Politicians are, of course, well aware of the legitimate foundation of such concerns and - at the cost of fair and proper public understanding of clemency - exploit the circumstance for partisan advantage.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Tuesday's gubernatorial recall election "could see the highest turnout for that office in more than a half-century." So, for no legitimate reason whatsoever, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D), who is trying to unseat Scott Walker (R), says:
"I want to be certain that we're not going to have this election and he's going to turn around and pardon all these aides of his who have been charged ... I just want him to say that he's never going to pardon any of these people. These are close associates of his."
It was reminiscent of the over-the-top smears thinly disguised as thoughtful speculation which attended the end of the Bush administration. Bush was supposed to pardon every Republican in federal prison, as well as every one who might ever be charged from here to eternity. The speculation feeding frenzy was certainly a real treat for idiots (see our delightful chronicling of their stupidity here), but not very beneficial for the reputation of the pardon power and public understanding.

Unfortunately, Walker (who has yet to grant a single pardon!) has responded:
"I have said repeatedly I'm not issuing pardons on anything. Period." 
When, he should have said:
"I have used the powers of my office responsibly to date and no one has any reason to think that, in the future, I will do otherwise. As such I will neither be coached nor harassed as to how to use, or not use, the solemn powers vested in me by the State Constitution. I will use, or not use, the power exactly as I see fit."
That is the only serious answer any public official should give to those who want to soil such an important topic with the boots of political expediency. Run your campaign, Mr. Barrett. Just shut up about the possibility of preemptive, best-buddy, double secret, unprecedented fantasy pardons. See story here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wisconsin: A Governor Lost in Separated Powers

If there is anything worse than intentionally neglecting one's constitutional duty to provide a check and a balance against the other other two branches of government, it is bragging that you failed to do so, or announcing, in advance, that you have no intention to do so. Take the new governor of Wisconsin, for example, Scott Walker.

Wisconsin governors have pardoned nearly 1,000 people since 1977. It is reported, however, that Governor Walker has not granted a single pardon since he took office. In addition, a "spokesman" says he "isn't planning on issuing any at this time." OK, perhaps if the "spokesperson" had shut up there, it would have been tolerable. The previous five governors all granted pardons in their first year in office. But, hey, maybe, just somehow, there hasn't been a single deserving application filed yet. And who really "plans" these things anyway?

But, no! The "spokesman" had to go into la-la land, saying, he believes "these decisions should be left up to the courts." So, the State's Pardon Advisory Board has not even met. Walker has not even appointed anyone to it! Perhaps Walker will forsake the veto power as well, because legislation is best left to the legislative branch? and legislators?

We guess not.

But, that's what happens when you bend over backwards trying to appear to be Dirty Harry / Hanging Judge Parker / Crime Dog / Nixonian Law and Order, tough boy. You say stupid things, which may very well impress the ignorant, but, at the same time, suggest that, while you are posing for the camera and the grandstand, you have no clear idea / or appreciation for the fact that ours is a government of separated powers and checks and balances. Here, in this country, our Founding Fathers argued, in the Federalist Papers, that there should be "easy" access to mercy via the executive branch (that's the place where Walker works). Now how, exactly, does that line up with the Wisconsin model?

See story here and here and here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Obama (of Chicago) to Pardon a Packer?

NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk reports "memorabilia" belonging to former Green Bay Packer's guard Fred “Fuzzy” Thurston is "scheduled to be sold at auction" in order to pay off a $1.7 debt to the Internal Revenue Service. Among the items to be sold, Thurston's Super Bowl II ring! But, alas, members of a Facebook group are said to be "contacting" President Obama directly, in order to ask for a presidential pardon! Fan Tony Fonder weaves this intricate legal argument: "Without Fuzzy , there would NOT be a Titletown U.S.A.” Catherine Migliano, a "longtime friend" of Thurston and, evidently, an individual of sound mind, has told the Green Bay Press Gazette that all of the effort is not likely to do much good. See story here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wisconsin: The Record of Three Governors

Green Bay's Post Gazette.com reports the three most recent governors (Doyle, McCallum and Thompson, from 1988 to 2010) "pardoned nearly 500 people convicted of crimes." Doyle, the current governor has issued 260 pardons to date, while McCallum granted only 11 (in two years) and Thompson granted 225 (in four years). Doyle has yet to commute a sentence. Thompson did it 5 times.

The reports says "several convicted killers" have been pardoned along the way and, the average age of people who have received pardons from Doyle has been 45. They committed crimes, on average, when they were 23 years old.

The State has a seven-member state Pardon Advisory Board (appointed by the governor) that considers clemency applications and makes recommendations to the governor. Doyle is said to take the process "seriously." And why on earth would he not? See story here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wisconsin: Pardon Board Voting Controversy

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting on a controversy regarding the State's Pardon Advisory Board. It notes that, last August, the sentences of two inmates (Walker Johnson and Darryl L. Nortonwere) commuted even though Susan Crawford, the board chairwoman and legal counsel to Governor Doyle, did not vote ... at least not at the meeting. Crawford instead informed the board that she would vote "later." In one instance, hers was the deciding vote. The president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council doesn't like it, even if it was legally acceptable. The Journal Sentinel reports that "the last time a sentence was commuted, rather than pardoned, was in 1995, when Tommy G. Thompson was governor." Norton's commutation was opposed by a Racine County Circuit Judge. See full story here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wisconsin: Returns on a Pardoned Felon

Jim Sting, at the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinal has written an excellent piece entitled, "Pardoning Felons Returns Dividends." The piece recounts a day in 1996 when Sting was reporting on the State's "rarely covered" pardon board. That is when he heard the "remarkable story" of one Harold E. Stafford, who is now a lawyer practicing in Wisconsin.

The 35-year old Stafford appeared before the board in 1996 because he needed a pardon in order to be admitted to the bar. Although he was the son of a judge, Stafford had starting doing drugs in the 7th grade and dropped out of college a couple of times. He then moved on to California cocaine trafficking. But his family got him into drug treatment and he went back to college and became a deacon of a church!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wisconsin: Death Bed Pardon?

It is reported that 52-year old Lawrencia "Bamni" Bembenek is "near death" as a result of "Hepatitis C and liver failure" and possibly cancer. In 1982, Bembenek, a former Milwaukee Police, murdered her then-husband's ex-wife. She then escaped from Taycheedah Correctional Institution, however, and secured a second trial, pleading "no contest." Bembenek received credit for time served and was released in 1992. But she says she was "framed." So, the Governor's Pardon Advisory Board will meet to decide her "legal fate." See story here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wisconsin: Interview Policy Changed

The Chicago Tribune reports that a member of Wisconsin's Pardon Advisory Board "says the panel has waived its longstanding policy of requiring applicants to appear in person for a hearing." A representative of the state Justice Department is also said to be "concerned" about the policy change. See story here.

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