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January 12, 2008

Thoughtful Eighth Circuit ruling on commutation procedures and ex post facto claim

An interesting ruling came from the Eighth Circuit on Friday concerning legal claims surrounding cummutation procedures.  The full opinion in Snodgrass v. Robinson, No. 07-1463 (8th Cir. Jan 11, 2008) (available here), has lots of nuance.  Here is how it starts:

State prisoner Sherryl Ann Snodgrass filed suit alleging that the Iowa Board of Parole (“the Board”), the Board’s members, and the governor of Iowa violated her constitutional rights by applying laws and regulations governing sentence commutation requests even though the laws were passed after her conviction. She alleges these acts violated the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution and caused a deprivation of her Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process rights.  U.S. Const. Art. I, § 10, cl. 1; Amend. V; Amend. XIV, § 1.  The district court1 granted a motion to dismiss, finding commutation by the governor in Iowa to be an act of grace unrestricted by substantive laws or rules.  The district court concluded that the speculative possibility of a lost opportunity for a commutation could not serve as the basis for a state’s ex post facto violation and that Snodgrass had no liberty interest in an act of grace by the governor. Accordingly, the district court held Snodgrass had not stated a cause of action for any constitutional violations.  We affirm.

January 12, 2008 at 04:16 PM | Permalink

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