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April 28, 2010

Effective USA Today coverage of President Obama's clemency stinginess

Clemencyx Yesterday's edition of USA Today had a pair of pieces (and this reprinted graphis) discussing federal clemency realities, which effectively stressed the significant fact that President Obama has received a huge number of clemency requests while having granted not a single one during his first 16+ months in the Oval Office.  One piece, which is headlined "Record number seek president's clemency," starts this way:

President Obama has received more petitions for pardons and shorter prison sentences than previous presidents at this point in office, and he hasn't approved a single one. 

Obama has already logged 2,361 clemency petitions, according to the Justice Department.  He also faces a backlog of 2,173 old requests, a legacy of a system that civil rights groups and conservative jurists say has fallen into disuse.

A related piece, which is headlined "Convict petitions Obama to reduce crack penalty," highlights the story of, Kenneth Harvey, just one of thousands of offenders hoping that President Obama will give his pledge of hope and change a little more meaning in this context. Here is a brief segment from that piece:

Harvey's family wants him back home β€” and they thought when Barack Obama got elected president, they'd have a shot. Now, they're not so sure.

Obama has not approved a single request for a pardon or a shorter prison sentence since he took office, despite having more petitions before him β€” 2,361 according to the Justice Department β€” than any previous president at this point in his term.

The White House won't discuss the issue, other than to say Obama has asked Justice to review how it processes petitions and makes recommendations.

As regular readers know, I have been urging President Obama to exercise his clemency power with vigor since literally his very first day in the Oval Office (as evidenced by some of the posts linked below).  Though I remain deeply disappointed at the lack of action by the President in this setting, I am perhaps even more disappointed by the lack of criticism concerning the Obama Administration's failings in this historically significant setting.

Some related posts:

April 28, 2010 at 09:13 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Must be so frustrating for those who have filed petitions, but at the same time it must be difficult for Obama to get through everything. I've heard it suggested that the right to grant clemency should be moved elsewhere- but would this be appropriate?

Posted by: asbestos claims | Apr 28, 2010 11:32:33 AM

the related posts listed make some really interesting reading, it's interesting hearing about the individual cases and seeing how they relate to the bigger picture.

Posted by: no win no fee solicitors | Apr 28, 2010 11:41:59 AM

I have been urging President Obama to exercise his clemency power with vigor....

It’s an excellent prescription for losing the next election.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Apr 28, 2010 11:53:48 AM

Marc, I agree that there are political risks to clemency. But Gov. Ehrlich had a vigorous and careful clemency program, and it didn't cost him at all, though he did lose election.

Certainly, there are people in the federal system who have been incarcerated long past what was just--find some of them, and give them clemency. And not granting clemency to people who have stale, relatively minor convictions and who have led law-abiding lives for decades is problematic.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 28, 2010 12:25:07 PM

It's a shame that the Presidential power to pardon and commute has become such political dynamite. Both parties have made it so. Clinton pardoned Marc Rich even while Rich was a fugitive--in part because of enormous donations to the democratic party--Bush II pardoned Edwin Cox after his dad contributed an enormous sum to the Bush presidential library. And, of course, the pardon of Scooter Libby. I would like to think that the presidents of the past used the pardon power frequently to achieve justice (as federalist desires) or to demonstrate thanks for service to the country, not as a reward for moneys donated to politial parties, but maybe I'm kiddinig myslef.

According to Wikipedia, George Washington pardoned "Tom the Tinker" the leader of the Whiskey Rebellion--the first pardon ever issued. James Madison pardoned Jean Lafitte and Pieree Lafitte, infamous pirates, because of their assistance in the War of 1812. James Buchanan pardoned Brigham Young. Abrham Lincoln issued many pardons inlcuding 264 to Dakota Indians for particpating in the Great indian Uprising of 1862. In 1868 Andrew Johnson issued unconditional amnesty to all Confederates and to Dr. Samuel Mudd charged with conspiring to murder Lincoln. Franklin Rooselvelt issued 3,687 pardons in his nearly four terms in office. Harry Truman pardoned 2,044 persons. Eisenhower pardoned or commuted in 1,157 cases. Kennedy in his short term pardoned 575 persons. Lyndon Johnsono, 1,187 persons. Nixon pardoned 926 persons and commuted the sentence of Jimmy Hoffa (he would have been safer had he remained in prison).

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Apr 28, 2010 1:41:42 PM

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