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

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.

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.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In Praise of Debra Saunders (And All Such Journalists!)

We have had Clarence Aaron on our Pardon Watch List for some time now, and are quite pleased to remove his name - now that his ridiculously long prison sentence has finally been commuted. But long before there was ever a Pardon Power Blog, the San Francisco Chronicle-based editorialist Debra J. Saunders saw the injustice of Aaron's case, and began a series of pleas /arguments on his behalf. Year after year, she penned editorials, explaining the facts of the case and the sentence, arguing the case was indicative of larger, systematic problems and pleading with the President and DOJ officials to exercise the power of pardon.

The pen may or may not be mightier than the sword, but that is to say nothing of the noble nature of the cause, or the effort. The Editor of this blog was able see / experience such an effort from Adam Liptak of the New York Times, who took the time and care to report on the inexcusable behavior of one governor (Jan Brewer) in one state (Arizona) in a single case (William Macumber). Readers can see the results in the book Manifest Injustice, by Barry Siegel.

There seems to be very little doubt that Clarence Aaron's story would make for a compelling book, and Debra J. Saunders would have to be part of that story.  Her effort was persistent, unrelenting, admirable and compelling. The world of journalism would benefit from more people like her. Here (below) are links to some of the editorials Saunders wrote on Aaron's behalf:

Dec. 2001: In America, punishment should fit the crime
Dec. 2002: Nine years ago, Aaron sentenced to life without parole
Nov. 2004: Fourth Christmas season writing about Aaron
Nov. 2005: Quality of Bush pardons lacking
Nov. 2007: Is there mercy in America for Clarence Aaron?
Nov. 2008: The power of the pardon
Nov. 2009: Politics of the pardon
Dec. 2012: Who will pardon the pardon attorney?
July 2013: Obama could have been Clarence Aaron
Dec. 2013: Obama's turkey of a pardon record
Dec 2013: Department of Injustice

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Clemmons Problem? Or Media Problem?

Jonathan Martin of the Seattle Times has announced ever so ominously that,
If former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is going to run for president in 2016, his campaign is going to have to run through the Forza coffee shop in Parkland, Wash. That’s where one of Huckabee’s many parolees, Maurice Clemmons, assassinated four Lakewood police officers in 2009, depriving nine children of a parent and setting a national perception that Huckabee abused his powers of clemency. 
Martin says Huckabee's "Maurice Clemmons problem" exists because Huckabee "freed Clemmons from a 108-year sentence in 2000." Seemingly to prop up the claim, Martin notes Huckabee "granted more pardons and commutations - 1,033 - than his three predecessors (including Bill Clinton) combined."

But the "Maurice Clemmons problem" is really a "poorly informed / sensationalist media problem." Martin was clever enough to identify a "perception" that Huckabee abused his clemency powers in the case of Clemmons, but boorish enough not to say what the primary mover of that perception was: second (if not third) rate - and often outright misleading - media reporting.

Mike Huckabee did not set Clemmons free, much less "abuse" his pardon power in the process. Clemmons had been given a 108-year sentence at the age of 16 (nothing to see there!). In 2000, Huckabee merely commuted that sentence - not to time served mind you - but to 47 years. By that point, Clemmons had served eleven years, but no one was set free.

Huckabee did not have the power to simply grant parole. Nor does parole rain from the sky in Arkansas. It does not flow from public drinking fountains. Arkansas has a Post-Prison Transfer Board which makes recommendations for parole to the governor after thorough investigation of each application. After reviewing Clemmons' request (supported by the sentencing judge), that Board unanimously agree to set Clemmons free, if you will - although with supervision. Clemmons could have been a bone head as Governor Jan Brewer was in the case of William Macumber. But, as he later explained:
... Clemmons met the criteria for parole and was paroled to supervision in late 2000. When he violated the terms of his parole, he was returned to prison and should have remained behind bars. For reasons only the prosecutor can explain, he ended up dropping the charges, allowing Clemmons to leave prison and return to supervised parole. Clemmons moved to his native Washington State and engaged in intermittent criminal activity that increased in violence and frequency. He was arrested on charges of raping a child, yet was allowed to post bail in Washington. While out on bail, he committed the unspeakable acts of murdering four valiant police officers.
And, as Huckabee also explains:
If I could have possibly known what Clemmons would do nine years later, I obviously would have made a different decision. If I only had the same information I had then, I would make the same decision. 
Huckabee can certainly be roundly condemned for failing to predict the future and being unable to connect dots that no one else around him could connect. And Martin certainly looks brilliant, well after the fact. As for playing on the Nixonian phobias ... not so impressive. The Maurice Clemmons problem is largely a problem of unimpressive second-guessing by media too lazy to write well, but desperate to manufacture more controversy than warranted. See full editorial here.

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.

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.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Manifest Injustice !

Today, Pulitzer Prize winner Barry Siegel's new book, Manifest Injustice: The True Story of a Convicted Murderer and the Lawyers Who Fought for His Freedom, is on the shelves of the Nation's bookstores (see ad here).

The book is about the case of one William Macumber whose situation was highlighted in many of our posts (click here). We have asked (and gained) permission to quote the following passages from the book:
The next day, P.S. Ruckman, Jr., an associate professor of political science at Rock Valley College in Illinois, posted a report about the Macumber case - and Governor Brewer's refusal to discuss it - on his Pardon Power blog. Ruckman raised alarms and expressed hope that "the media will hammer this ... on a daily basis until the topic is addressed appropriately." A Justice Project law student volunteer  Andrew Hacker, spotted Ruckman's post and relayed a link to Katie in an e-mail carrying the subject line "It's spreading ..." (p. 282)
Indeed, the following day, the Editor of Pardon Power contacted every prominent member of the National media (print and broadcast) that he had worked with in recent years. He summarized the case and asked that they consider covering Macumber's plight. Adam Liptak of the New York Times graciously took and interest in the story wrote a great piece. Professor Ruckman spoke with Liptak about the case while he (Ruckman) was enjoying the Magic Kingdom (in Orlando) and his family was sitting through Stitch's Great Escape! Siegel writes:
At the state prison in Douglas, Bill Macumber tried to make sense of all the attention being paid to him. [He] hoped the exposure would help, and maybe even affect Governor Brewer. He particularly appreciated Professor Ruckman's blog posting and Adam Liptak's New York Times piece, since they'd kindled the media interest. "Perhaps I will remain in prison,  he wrote to Professor Ruckman, "yet should that prove to be the case there are now countless people out there that believe in me and in my innocence. I find considerable satisfaction in that." (p. 285)
Bill is now, finally out of prison. We are happy, both for him, and for family members living here in Illinois. Members of local media (in Rockford, IL.) also deserve credit for taking the time to cover this story, when they could have easily covered other news items less disturbing and more commonplace.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Forthcoming Book: Manifest Injustice

PardonPower is pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of a new book on the case of William Macumber. It is appropriately entitled, Manifest Injustice and is subtitled, The Story of a Convicted Murderer and the Lawyers who Fought for His Freedom. It written by Barry Siegel.

Interested readers can order the book on here. One can also search the contents of the text and see that this blog, and its Editor, are given some attention in the story-line and, for this, we are very very proud. This looks to be a great read!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Macumber Case Coverage

The Daily Mail is reporting on the case of William Macuber here

The New York Daily News has written on the case as well, here

See our own coverage of the case here

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unfortunate Response to Brewer's Incompetence

The Phoenix New Times blog reports that a group of state representatives "has introduced a bill that would strip the governor of the power to commute prison sentences and hand it over to the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency." The legislation, formally titled The Arizona Commutation Reform Act, was introduced by Reps. Cecil Ash, Daniel Patterson, Tom Chabin, Brenda Barton, Eric Meyer, Kate Brophy McGee, Richard Miranda, Peggy Judd, David Burnell Smith, and Catherine Miranda, as well as Sen. Ron Gould.

Apparently, the governor rejects about 84 percent of cases recommended to the governor by the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency are rejected each year. Over the last six years, only 53 cases out of 340 total have been approved by the governor. The result is an estimated $25.7 million dollars in revenue spent in order to house prisoners that the board has recommended for clemency.

Then, the part of the story we are particularly fond of:
The legislation comes in the wake of a controversy over the governor's refusal to commute a man's sentence despite the board's unanimous recommendation that he be released from prison. William Macumber (pictured above) is the first man in Arizona history to be unanimously recommended for clemency by the board without a DNA exoneration. Macumber first applied for clemency December 15, 2008. On August 25, 2009 the board unanimously recommended in a letter to the governor that he be released, partly because of his "extraordinary accomplishments" in prison but also because of the "substantial doubt that Mr. Macumber is guilty of the crime for which he was convicted."

That "substantial doubt" stems from the fact that his wife, who worked in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office at the time of the murders, reported to her supervisors that he had "confessed" the crime to her -- a claim she made while they were going through a nasty divorce. Her son now believes that his mother framed his father, and so, apparently, does the parole board.

But Brewer didn't see it that way. In November 2009, she denied him clemency, but declined to elaborate.
Indeed! See our coverage of Brewer's wildly inappropriate behavior here. See full story here.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Top Ten Clemency Stories of 2010

Here, in our humble opinion are the Top Ten Clemency Stories of 2010. Each item is also linked. Simply click on the associated number. Oh, and by the way, sorry, no Billy the Kid nonsense here:

Number 10: The Mighty Quinn - When former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) was run out of office, he left a stack of literally thousands of clemency applications behind, some dating back more than a decade. His replacement, Pat Quinn (D) promised to address the applications as best as he could, in a more timely fashion. In his mind, timely attention is implicit in the very notion of a just application process. Quinn kept his word.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Arizona: Nightline Examines Macumber Case Tonight

See Nightline posting on story here!

See our own previous posts on the story here!

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!

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.

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.

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

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