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Showing posts sorted by date for query Scott walker. Sort by relevance 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 ...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Bruni: Creative, But Still Wrong

We have already commented on Frank Bruni's commentary on Mark Wahlberg's clemency application (see posts here), but Bruni is doubling down on his wrong-headed analysis and his downward slide is something to see!

Bruni proudly wields a colorless anecdote re Wahlberg's use of eye glasses which he (Bruni), evidently, believes sheds profound light on the substantive merit of Wahlberg's pardon application. After spending a couple of "days" with Wahlberg, years ago, Bruni has concluded Wahlberg exhibited a pattern of bad behavior, almost four decades ago, when he was 16-years old, and when he committed an offense so heinous that he served only 45 days in prison.

In the Morning Joe clip (below), Bruni says Wahlberg's argument for pardon is that, well, "he was 16 at the time." And that is when it becomes perfectly obvious that, for whatever reason, Mr. Bruni just can't think clearly, or very fairly, about this case.


Bruni admits "everyone" says Wahberg is a "great person to work with and an outstanding guy" and that he "probably is a different man." Yes, "probably" is as far as Bruni is willing to wander away from the comfort of his ginormous blind spot. But he then tosses those critical reference points (at least for those who believe in - and are truly interested in - rehabilitation) like a classically over-zealous prosecutor forsaking a handful of frivolous charges in plea bargain negotiations with an indigent defendant. Notably, to date, Bruni and his ilk can't find a single person - not even an anonymous person - to slam Wahlberg's character and reputation ... in the current decade ! Dear Reader, do you realize how hard it is these days to not be able to find an anonymous slanderer?!

For centuries, presidents and governors have considered community service and social good works in clemency decision making, without Bruni's permission and insight:
It's easy to give back money when you make that much money and if we start factoring in financial contributions into pardons, that's just income inequality transferred into criminal justice. I don't think we need to do that. 
The giant ball of flame barrels through a field of straw men. It may be easy to give, but many don't.  As long as we are waxing sociological, "ease" is certainly a relative notion. "Financial contributions" here means donations to organizations that do things like provide counselling and programs to high risk youth. And, of course, the "factoring" consideration would pack a lot of serious journalistic punch were "financial contributions" required. But they are not. They are simply fairly considered with a host of whatever other arguments an applicant can make for penitence, rehabilitation, social responsibility and integration back into society as a law-abiding and productive citizen. 

Presidents have granted pardons to farmers, for all sorts of crimes, that landed then in federal prison, for much longer periods of time, so they could return to their fields for harvest. A President, Bruni would keep them in over-crowded, expensive prisons, protecting himself from 1) any accusation of agricultural bias and 2) any possible negative interpretation of his decision-making concocted by the worst, most uninformed. Signals are more important to Bruni than the boring, raw merits of a pardon application - like the fact that one of the victims thinks Wahlberg should be pardoned. Boring, irrelevant stuff. Admittedly, it appears we have a lot of governors like Bruni!

Bruni says we can't give Wahlberg a pardon ... not because the crime was so horrible, not because the application is weak, or horribly flawed, not because Wahlberg hasn't changed, not because he does not deserve a pardon ... but "because we give so few of them." Brilliant. This is the exact bone-headed argument that Scott Walker uses to justify his "policy" of granting no pardons at all. As he puts it, if he does justice in one case, others will demand the same. God forbid there would be a break out of justice on Walker's (or President Bruni's) watch. 

Then, the coup de grace. Bruni says - sounding really authoritative, informed - "The whole point of pardons is to remove restrictions that keep people from rebuilding productive lives." Because such restrictions have had "almost no effect" on Wahlberg, he is (in Bruni's mind) ineligible for clemency. Pure unadulterated, inexcusable nonsense. He could hardly be more wrong. One could write a doctoral dissertation on the categories and levels of error therein.

Bruni - at this point - is so far in over his head he can only resort to re-convening the court now closed for almost four decades, serving as judge and jury and accusing Wahberg of committing a "vicious racial hate crime." A great sound bite for a six-minute segment and drive -by viewers with little appetite for the yawns prompted by rigorous discussions of fairness and justice. Bruni's "arguments" are the rough equivalent of a football player on the way to a sure touchdown, and dropping the ball before actually crossing the goal line, in an attempt to look really cool, impressive. Epic fail. 

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!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Calling for Mercy: At the President's Door.

The Houston Chronicle has a great piece from the Associated Press re one Scott Walker, sent to prison at age 25 (almost 18 years ago) to serve out a life sentence.  The "kingpin" and supplier of drugs in Walker's case, "a two-time drug felon," knew how to play the system. He "cooperated" and testified against Walker and served about five years.

In July, Walker's lawyers submitted an application for federal executive clemency to President Obama. In the letter, they noted Walker "meets all six criteria for possible release" identified by the Department of Justice in recent announcements regarding commutations of sentence. In days to come, the President may see thousands of such applications.

For ignorant persons likely to be swayed by the mere claim that clemency would overturn the considered judgement of judges and juries, and that the president should not interfere with the decision making of the judicial branch: Walker's trial judge - Judge J. Phil Gilbert, an appointee of President George H. W. Bush - is also urging the president to commute the sentence to 20 years. Gilbert called the sentence that he was forced to impose on Walker (because of sentencing guidelines since rejected by both parties, in both the House and the Senate, back in 2010) "excessive and disproportionate."

The article also contains a brief, but excellent history of federal legislation regarding sentencing in drug cases. See full article here.

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.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Missouri: Gov. Nixon, Where Are You?

Today's St. Louis Post Dispatch has a fine editorial entitled, "Why Hasn't Gov. Jay Nixon Used His Pardon Power?" It notes that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn stands in "stark contrast" to Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D), whose "decisions reek of prioritizing politics over justice." Nixon has granted one commutation of sentence in more than four years. The Post-Dispatch observes the commutation was granted with "no explanation" and was "one of several cases overseen by former special prosecutor Kenny Hulshof on behalf of his boss, then Attorney General Jay Nixon." In addition, "allegations of misconduct have been raised by defense attorneys in several of the cases prosecuted by Mr. Hulshof." So ...
... here in Missouri there is a governor who is well aware of mistakes made in the criminal justice system, mistakes made by his employees in high-profile cases, and he’s found only one instance in which to exercise the very important power he has to pardon or commute. The disconnect is startling, especially when compared to Mr. Quinn’s more reasonable actions in Illinois. 
The editorial also notes that that "secrecy" surrounding the pardon process is a "problem."
Last year, a special American Bar Association report critical of the state’s death penalty protocols pointed to the lack of transparency in the pardon process ... In Missouri, Mr. Nixon can ignore pardons or grant them, with nobody being the wiser as to his reasons for the application of justice or mercy. That’s simply wrong. 
It is also noteworthy that Nixon has denied 212 petitions and almost 3,000 await action. The editorial concluded:
The clemency process is a final and important element of the entire criminal justice system. It should be open. It should matter. It should be taken more seriously. We don’t know Mr. Nixon’s motivation for failure to use one of the most powerful tools at his disposal. Maybe he believes everybody in prison is guilty. Perhaps he’s still planning a run for higher office and wants to cynically take no chance that there are any Willie Hortons on his résumé. Maybe, he simply lacks mercy. We doubt that’s truly the case, but actions speak louder than words.
See 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, December 7, 2010

The Other Basketball Great from North Carolina

Charles "Tex" Harrison was a star basketball player at North Carolina Central and became the first player from a predominately black school to be named "All-American." He went on to become a long-time star of the world renowned Harlem Globetrotters. But Harrison found more serious competition than the Washington Generals when Customs Service officials at Houston’s International Airport arrested him in the 1960's.

Harrison was charged with "unlawful possession of narcotics without paid transfer tax" because he was caught carrying less than an ounce of marihuana and hashish. A conviction followed on November 24, 1965, and Harrison was fined two thousand dollars. The sentence was, however, modified on January 21, 1966. Harrison was given five year’s probation and the fine was reduced to only five hundred dollars.

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