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December 12, 2008

A refreshing reminder from Washington (state) that clemencies can be virtuous and deserved

With all the renewed discussion of President Clinton's ugly pardon of Marc Rich and debates over which friends President Bush might pardon, it is all too easy to forget the virtuous facets of the clemency power.  Fortunately, thanks to this article in the Seattle Times, we can all be reminded that the power to be merciful that the clemency power reflects can (and should) be used in virtuous ways.  Here are the basics:

The state Clemency and Pardons Board [Thursday] voted to recommend clemency for a man convicted 14 years ago of a three-strikes offense and sentenced to life in prison. The board voted 4-0 to recommend that Stevan Dozier be released from prison, where he has spent the past 14 years after being convicted of second-degree robbery. The recommendation now goes to Gov. Christine Gregoire.

If Gregoire approves the clemency, Dozier will be the first inmate sentenced to life under the state's three-strikes law to be released from prison.... Among those speaking on Dozier's behalf [at his] clemency hearing in Olympia were King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, the judge who sentenced Dozier to prison and John Carlson, one of the authors of the state's three-strikes law.  All agree that Dozier deserves a second chance at freedom.

"I accept personal responsibility for my past," Dozier told the board by telephone from the Monroe Correctional Complex. "I used to lack respect for other people and their belongings. I have changed."

Fourteen years ago, Dozier was hooked on crack cocaine, an addiction he funded by snatching women's purses and striking his victims in the face if they fought back.  On Feb. 1, 1994, Dozier attacked 69-year-old Mary Bedford as she was walking into her North Seattle apartment. He knocked her to the ground, punched her in the face and grabbed her wallet. The robbery resulted in an automatic life sentence for Dozier — only the sixth felon to commit a third-strike offense in the year that the law had been in effect.... 

For Satterberg, who has spent a career putting felons behind bars, arguing on Dozier's behalf will help correct what he considers a disproportionately stiff sentence written into the original law. Dozier's third-strike offense was second-degree robbery, a crime Satterberg's office rarely uses as a strike crime....

Dozier was convicted of three separate counts of second-degree robbery between 1986 and 1994. The Rainier Beach High School graduate wanted cash from his victims to pay for cocaine, said his attorney Jeffrey Ellis. "His story is that of a guy whose life was derailed by crack cocaine," Ellis said. "Because of the allure of money, because his addiction was so strong, he would use force to get the purses."

Factoring in Dozier's criminal history, he has already been behind bars twice as long as he would have been had the crime not resulted in a third strike, prosecutors said.... Satterberg praises Dozier for maintaining a minimum-wage prison job, attending drug treatment and sending money home to his adult autistic son. According to the state Department of Corrections, Dozier hasn't received a major infraction for more than a decade.

"Here is someone who has no motive to be a model inmate and [no hope] of gaining freedom again and turned his life around," Carlson said. "He has won the confidence of people within the institution and outside the institution." In a letter to Gregoire and Margaret Smith, chair of the Clemency and Pardons Board, Satterberg said that Dozier "has expressed remorse of his crimes many times over the years."

December 12, 2008 at 09:36 AM | Permalink

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Comments

If you are going to have harsh sentences for criminal behavior, you should have safety valves for cases such as these. The power should be used sparingly, of course, but it should be used. 14 years sounds about right for punching an elderly woman in the face in order to steal her purse since he was a repeat offender.

Let's hope that if clemency is granted, Mr. Dozier can become a productive member of society.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 12, 2008 2:05:17 PM

well, hi admin adn people nice forum indeed. how's life? hope it's introduce branch ;)

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Posted by: Pypeelomype | Feb 14, 2009 9:29:08 AM

Mr. Dozier was granted a conditional commutation of his life sentence on May 7, 2009.

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