Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Jan Brewer. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Jan Brewer. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jan Brewer's "Personal" Justice: A Real Creature Feature

Occasionally (some say not enough, others say all too often), an execution takes place in the United States. These episodes are often accompanied by a flurry of last-minute appeals to courts, clemency boards and/or governors. When it is clear that the final call will be made by the governor, one can just about always expect some kind of formal statement, explaining the decision to allow the process to go forward without interruption.

These public statements are the byproduct of external and internal forces. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans favor the death penalty. Governors are certainly aware of this. So, however grim the circumstances, most of them probably feel comfortable issuing what they know will be widely publicized statements which tap into the potentially beneficial stream of majoritarian politics.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Arizona: Inside Jan Brewer's Cluster

Bob Ortega has written an excellent piece at the Arizona Republic on clemency in that state. It begins with this happy note:
Statistically, if you are convicted of a felony in Arizona, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than granted clemency by the governor. Excluding the cases of inmates nearing the end of a terminal illness, Brewer is on track to grant the fewest clemency cases in more than two decades -- even when a judge and unanimous board recommend a shorter sentence. Recent board members interviewed by The Arizona Republic believe clemency will be granted even less frequently in the future.
Ortega says Arizona adopted increasingly inflexible mandatory sentences over the last 30 years and the state's prison population has increased "eight-fold." Meanwhile, clemency has decreased, in part, because budget cuts "have reduced the number of clemency cases the board can hear to one-fourth as many as three years ago." The result is a "nearly two-year, 900-case backlog." The costs?
This withering of clemency brings both personal fallout, in ruined lives and separated families, and a financial cost to taxpayers, who pay to house and feed inmates [at $22,000 a year] who could otherwise be working and paying taxes.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Arizona: Nightline to Focus on Brewer's Behavior

The Arizona Guardian reports that Jan Brewer's brutalization of the State's justice system "is about to get a national audience." That is because an ABC-TV "Nightline" reporter recently flew William Macumber's son to Arizona so he could ask Brewer "in person" why she denied an application for a commutation of sentence for his seventy-five year old father, who is deemed innocent by the Arizona Justice Project and the State's own Board of Executive Clemency. The Guardian says the show will air next week.

At a recent press conference, Brewer illustrated the depth of her thinking on the matter by explaining why she believes William Macumber is in prison:
"I took an oath to uphold the constitution and do what is right for the people of Arizona. I know it's hard as a child that you're faced with this in your lifetime. But he was found guilty by two different juries and I feel very comfortable with my decision."
Of course, Macumber's son is familiar with his own father's conviction, and generally aware of the fact that people are very rarely thrown in prison without being convicted! But, what Governor Brewer has yet to address is the world of information that has arisen post-conviction - something the State's Board of Executive Clemency actually did take the time to do!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Arizona: Jan Brewer's Clemency Train Wreck Continues

This blog has followed the train wreck that is Governor Jan Brewer for years - our interest first being peaked when the State clemency board she appointed recommended clemency for William Macumber, whose guilt was in serious doubt. Brewer simply ignored the Board and repeatedly refused to explain (much less justify) her decision when asked by reporters and family members. Brewer unmistakably carried herself as a kind of Mayberry tyrant, above the law, accountable to no one, and damn proud of it.  

It later dawned on Brewer that, the best way to avoid such hassle in the future would be to remove three members of the five-member Board and replace them with persons less likely to care if their considered judgement about guilt, innocence, justice, blah, blah, blah, is loudly ignored! The result? Today, AZCentral reports:
... recently departed state Board of Executive Clemency chief Jesse Hernandez unsuccessfully tried to help shorten the prison sentence of NBA superstar Amar’e Stoudemire’s half brother after Hernandez had established a relationship with the one-time Phoenix Suns player ...
In fact, Hernandez "suddenly quit" last week after an investigation revealed found no less than nine cases of inappropriate behavior! Says AZCentral:
Gov. Jan Brewer, who has made personnel reform a priority of her administration, named Hernandez executive director and board chairman last year despite his not having any criminal-justice experience.
See full story here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Arizona: Coverage / Commentary Re Jan Brewer's "Justice"

Click on each passage to see the full context of coverage / commentary on the case of Bill Macumber

Macumber seems to be not a double murderer but a multiple victim — a victim of unjustly rigid rules of evidence (surely the confession would have raised a reasonable doubt of his guilt); a clemency process wherein governors have more to lose politically by releasing convicts than they have to gain by showing mercy - Ronald Goldfarb, The Hill

The speculation is that Governor Brewer is putting the interests of getting reelected ahead of the interests of justice. By refusing to release Macumber, she manages to appear tough on crime. For months, Brewer has been wrongfully pilloried for enforcing federal immigration laws in Arizona. It hurts to see the victim of such injustice perpetuate an injustice in her capacity as governor. I hope she will reconsider her decision, and let William Macumber spend his ailing twilight years as a free man. There is still time to do the right thing. I hope Governor Brewer will free William Macumber while there is still time. - Rudy Stettner, IndyPosted

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Arizona: Jan Brewer's Face Time and Bill Macumber

Dave Biscobing, of (Arizona) has filed an excellent report on the case of Bill Macumber, who has spent the past 35 years in jail despite considerable doubt re his actual guilt. Macumber’s wife was the one who actually turned him. At the time, they were in the middle of a heated divorce and child-custody battle. She was also under investigation at the sheriff's office, where she worked and had access to files containing what little evidence there was against her former husband. To top it off, another man confessed to the murders years before Macumber was arrested - a fact that his trial jury did not know.

Biscobing claims ABC15 "has reviewed thousands of pages of documents, reports and records and spent months speaking with people close to case." He notes Joyce Sterrenberg and Tim McKillop were murdered on May 23, 1962. Twelve years later, Carol Macumber, an employee of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, fingered her husband as the killer and a bullet casing and a palm print were quite enough to send him to prison. Biscobing notes "she had access to case records, fingerprints and files, according to lawyers and records. She also practiced fingerprinting on Bill when she first started her job."

Ernie Valenzuela, a self-proclaimed serial killer, was defended by Tom O’Toole who reports Valenzuela "described the McKillop / Sterrenberg killings in detail" and gave himself credit for the murders on five different occasions "to five other people, including a cellmate, another lawyer and psychologists."

Then, of course, the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency recently took up the case and Macumber "became the only non-DNA case in history where the board has unanimously recommended his release." The Board found "substantial doubt" of Macumber's guilt and recommended that Governor Jan Brewer correct the "miscarriage of justice" via executive clemency. In an exceptionally freakish and whimsical abuse of power, Brewer ignored the recommendation and, for months, refused to even comment on the case. The silence was then followed by a series of non-specific, generic explanations which appeared to be deliberately aimed at adding insult to injury.

Biscobing now notes that Brewer has built up a "four-year backlog of clemency cases" (one might recall the clemency handiwork of former Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich). Face time on late night cable television barking about borders is Jan Brewer's gig. Justice? Not so much. See full story here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Arizona: Brewer Stacks the Clemency Board

The Arizona Republic reports Gov. Jan Brewer is "under fire" for "the way she replaced three of the five members of the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency last month." Brewer, of course, is notable for ignoring the careful decision making of the Board, even when innocent persons are in prison. And, it is reported that the ousted members say they were dismissed for "recommending clemency when Brewer thought they shouldn’t have." Today, a claim will be made that the Board may not be legally constituted because "the new appointees have been considering cases without the training required by state statute." Says the Republic:
Brewer’s decision to replace a majority of the board in one fell swoop raises other issues. By statute, board members’ terms are staggered so that their terms expire one at a time. But earlier this year, Brewer decided to simultaneously replace [Duane Belcher, Marilyn Wilkens and Ellen Stenson]. All three attribute their departures to the governor’s displeasure with their votes to grant clemency in certain cases. 
Despite Belcher’s interest in continuing as chairman and support for him from inmate advocates, prosecutors and victims’ groups, Brewer’s nominating committee declined to interview him. Belcher agreed to stay on through May 11 to train the new board members. Belcher said Brewer’s general counsel, Joe Sciarrotta, and deputy chief of staff, Scott Smith, made it clear a few months ago that the governor was unhappy with his vote to grant convicted murderer William Macumber clemency in 2009. He voted again for clemency for Macumber earlier this year. Wilkens said that during her re-appointment interview, “it was expressed clearly that there was dissatisfaction with my vote on a particular issue, and that I had not voted the way they wished that I would have voted.” Unlike Belcher and Stenson, Wilkens didn’t support Macumber’s application; she wouldn’t say which clemency grant was at issue in her case.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Arizona: Brewer Continues to Baffle and Annoy

Joe Dana of KPNX-12 notes Governor Jan Brewer's inexcusable behavior in the case of William Macumber's clemency petition continues to "frustrate many." Katie Puzauskas, an attorney at the Arizona Justice Project (Arizona State University) says she hopes "the governor reconsiders her decision and if there's any information she would like to have in order to make the decision to just ask." Dana also writes:
Attorneys with the Justice Project plan to appeal once again to the clemency board next year for Macumber's release. They are gathering more evidence in hopes of bolstering their case. They say what's most frustrating about the governor's decision is that she did not provide a specific reason for the clemency denial. "A unanimous recommendation from the board is so rare. To have a decision declining the recommendation without giving a reason is very disappointing," Puzauskas said.
See complete KPNX story here. See additional PardonPower commentary on this case at the links provided below:

Jan Brewer's "Personal" Justice: A Real Creature Feature
Arizona: Plea for Clemency
Arizona: Coverage / Commentary Re Jan Brewer's "Justice"
Arizona: Times on the Macumber Outrage
Arizona: Clemency Mystery

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Shock! Arizona's Jan Brewer Nightmare

AZ Central reports five former members of the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency "say that Gov. Jan Brewer, working through a top staff member, regularly strong-armed them not to grant clemency to state prisoners whose cases came before the board." Three - Duane Belcher, Ellen Stenson and Marilyn Wilkens - even claim that they were fired by Brewer for votes recommending clemency. Belcher had actually served on the Board for 20 years. The other two members (Jesse Hernandez and Melvin Thomas) resigned. Statements from all five are now part of suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of Edward Schad, who is scheduled for execution on October 9.

Brewer's purge of the Board was said to have been prompted by the case of William Macumber, a case followed with great interest by the Editor of the blog (see former posts here). The short version is that the State's Board found considerable doubt as to Macumber's guilt and recommended clemency. Gov. Brewer not only disagreed, she refused to issue any public statement regarding the case. After months of media hounding, she grudgingly offered the kind of meaningless, substantively hollow explanation you would expect from a public official contemptuous of the officials she appointed to examine the case with great care and angry at the very thought of having to justify her own decision making. Macumber is now, thankfully, a free man. See full story here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Arizona: Brewer Still Drunk With Power

ABC 15 reports that Governor Jan Brewer (R) "abruptly ended her own press conference" yesterday when asked about her decision to refuse clemency - without explanation - to a man deemed innocent by the Arizona Justice Project and the State's own Board of Executive Clemency.

In Brewer's defense, over the past year, she has provided excessively insulting boiler-plate commentary on her decision, which could be applied to any other clemency decision that she has made - e.g.,"It's an unfortunate situation. I appreciate your concerns. But I have made my decision and it's final." Brewer has not, however, ever even attempted to address the decision making of the State's Board.

So, yesterday, Brewer was asked:
"He's 75. He's got heart problems and arthritis ... To say that he's a threat to public safety? Why won't you release him?"
ABC 15 says Brewer - like any 17th century queen drunk with power - was "surprised" by the question. It has only been tossed at her a half dozen times now! And, because she can, she turned on her heels and walked away. See ABC 15 report here.

See our previous commentary on Brewer's abuse of power here.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Arizona: Mercy, Especially (Just About Always) for The Dying

ABC 15 reports Gov. Jan Brewer will be concluding her last year in office "by continuing her pattern of granting few clemency petitions and typically to those who are inmates on the verge of death." In 2014, she granted five commutations "for prisoners released to die with their families."

It is reported that Brewer "averaged about seven commutations per year since she took office in 2009" and "two each year typically were for reasons other than imminent death."

More notably, in 2014, Brewer rejected 12 recommendations for commutation of sentence from Arizona's Board of Executive Clemency, the individuals appointed by the State to learn / know more about each clemency application than anyone. Per her tradition, Governor Brewer gives no specific reason for her clemency decisions. In the case of William Macumber - whose guilt was in grave doubt, at least in the Board's mind - Brewer gave no explanation at all for ignoring the Board's recommendation. Good Bye Gov. Brewer. You will not be missed. See full story here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Arizona: Working Around the Nightmare that is Jan Brewer

Tulsa Today is reporting on Senate Joint Resolution 46 which would removed the governor from the parole process for nonviolent criminals, saving the state money and allowing the governor to focus on more important things. The State's Legislature has already passed House Bill 2131 "which essentially will remove the Governor from the parole process for nonviolent crimes."  It allows the Governor thirty days to consider recommendations. If the Governor takes no action, the board's recommendation is upheld. These efforts certainly make a great deal of sense given Governor Jan Brewer's disastrous course of action in the Bill Macumber case. See full story here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Arizona: Brewer's Charade

The Arizona Republic correctly notes the assertion that a state clemency is guilty of "incompetency" is a "novel development in the nation's long-running fight over the death penalty. Only in Arizona." Well, only in Jan Brewer's Arizona!

The Republic notes the State's "clemency" board "is intentionally stacked to avoid recommending clemency" because Brewer "so dislikes granting forgiveness." Which raises the obvious question: "then why bother with a "clemency" charade at all?"

Brewer's "stunning mass-firing of three clemency-board members earlier this year" included "longtime chairman Duane Belcher and Marilyn Wilkens, who was appointed in 2010 by Brewer herself." As a result, the "mandate" of the new clemency board "could not be clearer. Trouble this governor with clemency recommendations at your peril."  See story here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Brewer Can't Be Bothered with Imprisoned Innocent Man

As readers of this blog are aware, one of the most disturbing / controversial  state clemency matters is floating just beneath the daily news on Arizona's immigration law. The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency (a body selected by the governor)recently considered the case of one William Macumber and unanimously recommended clemency. Governor Jan Brewer, however, rejected the Board's recommendation without providing Macumber, or any member of the Board, anything like an explanation. Amazingly enough, the Board's recommendation was NOT on the basis of rehabilitation. The Board believes Macumber is innocent of the crime for which he has been imprisoned for more than 30 years.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Arizona: At Last, Justice for Bill Macumber !!! reports that 77-year old Bill Macumber, imprisoned almost four decades for the killing of two 20-year-olds "pleaded no contest Wednesday to second-degree murder charges in a move that secured his freedom."  He maintained his innocence from the start.

The Arizona Justice Project has worked for Macumber's release, noting "no DNA evidence linked him to the crimes, his wife framed him; and another man had confessed to the killings."

The State's clemency board told Gov. Jan Brewer that "an injustice has been done in the case, and there was substantial doubt that Macumber was guilty of the crimes." But Brewer denied the recommendation "to either commute the sentence to time served or reduce it to 35 years to life in prison." She then stonewalled press inquiries regarding her reasons for the denial.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Arizona: Ramifications of Brewer's Errors

The Arizona Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution on behalf of Samuel Villegas Lopez just one day before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection. Lopez claims he has denied a chance at a fair clemency hearing. His greater misfortune is that he is in a state where the results of fair clemency hearings are routinely ignored by Governor Jan Brewer. Because of Brewer some of the current members of the state clemency board have not received a mandated four-week training course. See story here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Arizona: Times on the Macumber Outrage

Adam Liptak (pictured on the right) of the New York Times has provided a marvelous service by drawing attention to a case originating in a state where there is so much recent concern about criminal procedure, due process of law and individual rights: Arizona. The State's five member Board of Executive Clemency board believes a 74-year old man sitting in prison, William Macumber, is innocent and has recommended that he be released immediately. But Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer (R) has not only ignored the board's unanimous recommendation, she also refuses to provide an explanation for keeping Macumber behind bars.

Macumber was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1962 murder of a couple in the desert. Most of the "evidence" against him came from his own wife, whom he was in the process of divorcing. The jury heard nothing of the individual who confessed the murders (to a lawyer and future judge, a second lawyer and a psychiatrist) just five years afterward.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Arizona: Clemency Mystery

Last August (that is nine months ago), the State's five member Board of Executive Clemency unanimously recommended that 75 year old Bill Macumber be released from prison because there was "substantial doubt" as to his guilt. No, not any of the wishy-washy "rehabilitation" stuff. The man is thought to be innocent!

Macumber was charged with a double homicide in 1974. The murders actually took place in 1962. Governor Jan Brewer (R), on the other hand, denied Macumber's application for clemency without explanation three months after the Board's unanimous recommendation and, it appears, is stonewalling any attempt by anyone to understand why. As it is reported:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Arizona: Jan Brewer's Continuing Train Wreck

On November 24, 2009, the Arizona state Board of Executive Clemency recommended clemency (a reduction in sentence) for 65-year old Patrick Maloney, who had been convicted of murdering his mother and stepfather almost a half a century ago, when he was 15 years old. Brewer has also reduced the sentence of Betty Smithey, who was sentenced to life without parole in 1963 for killing a child, but was paralyzed when the same Board recommended clemency for William Macumber, on the grounds of actual innocence! See story here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Arizona: Clemency from Brewer?

Bob Ortega of the Arizona Republic is reporting on the case of 69-year old Betty Smithey, who has served 49 years of a "life sentence without the possibility of parole." Smithey was convicted for the murder of a child in 1963. Requests for clemency have been denied by two previous governors and Smithey now deals with the likes Jan Brewer, "who has granted the fewest clemency requests of any Arizona governor in the past 20 years."

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