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November 28, 2005

Timely article about executive clemency

Today I received a reprint of a new article on executive clemency that seems especially timely as the debate continues over whether the scheduled execution of California death row inmate Stanley "Tookie" Williams and his case for clemency.  (On the Williams front, in addition to my recent Tookie coverage here and here and here, consider this interesting article from today's Christian Science Monitor and this interesting post from David Kopel at The Volokh Conspiracies.)

This new article, which is by Samuel T. Morison and appears as The Politics of Grace: On the Moral Justification of Executive Clemency, 9 Buff. Crim. L. Rev 1 (2005), is focused principally on federal clemency theory and practices, although its main points have broad application for all clemency debates.  Folks into criminal justice philosophy and theoretical debates over the clemency power are likely to most enjoy the full article, although I suspect many readers might like these quotes from the introduction:

[I]f a president refuses to exercise the clemency power at all, perhaps to insulate himself from potential political criticism for being "soft on crime," he would be properly subject to moral condemnation for being merciless....

[T]he reluctance of recent presidents to exercise the clemency power more generously perhaps can be criticized for displaying a certain lack of moral imagination and political courage, particularly given the advent in the last twenty years of strict mandatory minimum statutes and rigid sentencing guidelines, together with a burgeoning federal prison population.

Adding to the intrigue of this article is the fact that its author, Sam Morison, currently serves as an Attorney-Advisor in the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the US Department of Justice.

November 28, 2005 at 05:22 PM | Permalink


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