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January 20, 2007

Seeking information on state restrictions on clemency

In thinking about the sad Gerarlow Wilson case (background here), I learned that Georgia's legislature may have completely barred the state's governor from being able to grant clemency in this sort of sex offense case.  Similarly, one extraordinary aspect of the extraordinary Berger case (background here) is that the Arizona legislature has completely barred the state's governor from being able to grant clemency in certain cases.

Has anyone investigated or assembled information about substantive state restrictions on governors' clemency powers, particularly in non-capital cases?   I know many states have long set forth procedural regulations to regulate the clemency and pardon power, but I believe the complete elimination of that power in certain classes of cases is a relatively new (and uniquely questionable) development. 

UPDATE:  Thanks to commentors for noting some notable state clemency restrictions.  Keep up the great work.

January 20, 2007 at 12:22 PM | Permalink


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California's constitution has long had a unique restriction on the Governor's clemency power--the Governor cannot commute or pardon the sentence of a "twice convicted felon" without the concurrence of 4 justices of the California Supreme Court. A "twice convicted felon" is a prisoner who was previously convicted of a felony before committing the subsequent felony offense which is the subject of the clemency request. It is a limitation on clemency for recidivists.

Posted by: ward | Jan 20, 2007 2:19:12 PM

In Texas there is an animal called a "time-cut", a form of clemency that is just what you would think it says, (commutation of time). This requires the concurrence/recommendation of the sentencing judge, prosecuting attorney or DA in common parlance, AND a third individual, possibly a probation/parole person... (memory don't fail me). While not a restriction or limitation per se it creates a high hurdle.

Posted by: Major Mori | Jan 20, 2007 3:33:43 PM

Found this Petition for Clemency
at this site

I could be wrong but I don't think it presents the kinds of restrictions you are interested in.

Posted by: Major Mori | Jan 20, 2007 4:13:57 PM

In Tennessee there are NO legislative restrictions except for the fact that a recent Governor was caught up in a pardon for cash disaster out of Chattanooga which has effectly ended all but the rarest pardon in our state..the Governor went to jail as did several of his aides...You dont hear anybody singing :"Pardon me boy,is that the Chatanooga Choo-Choo?"

Posted by: David Raybin | Jan 21, 2007 11:45:46 PM

Margaret Colgate Love (former pardon attorney for the U.S. DOJ) has assembled an excellent, state-by-state resource guide concerning the collateral consequences of criminal conviction. Among the information included in each state's profile (and summarized behind the "Table #1" near the bottom fo the page linked below) is a description of the executive's pardon/clemency authority.


Posted by: | Jan 22, 2007 9:13:23 AM

In gerarlow cases I wonder if the prosecutor was ever a young man, this case takes me back to slavery time. This law I believe was created for black fox . It needs to be changed . The whole case upset me so when I heard it last night. What ever happen to second chance/ probation. The judge and the prosecutor should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by: yani | Jan 27, 2007 6:17:42 AM

In the genarlow case just like in State of georgia v clemons, armed robbery. That same prosecutor David McDade , In Douglas County, Georgia KKK He knew my 3.7 GPA college bound daughter was innocent when he went after her for a crime 2 brothers committed. She was new in Georgia, received numerous awards from the US Post office as an employee and full time student. She knew 2 brothers just (11) eleven days and they asked her to ride with them to 6 flags they robbed a store and ran out with guns and told her to go!~ go! go! and she did! frightened she started the car and in the midst of all their yeling she just drove. police stopped them and she got the same sentence as the robbers/perpetrators. David McDade, Prosecutor, took me into his office and behind his desk was pictures of black men whom he convicted(death penalty) words under picture. He told me that my innocent daughter was facing 23 years in prison because she did not jump outta the car and risk getting shot by those hoodlums. He told me that since she is such a good girl maybe she will teach the women in prison how to be good girls. My good daughter, my 3.7 gpa college girl, whom spoke three languages, played the piano, and had a bright future ahead of her is now serving her 11 mandatory years in prison, because she would not plead guilty and take a lesser sentence for something she had no part of. The prosecutor even took the registration out of the defendant's car and put it into my daughter pocketbook to try to tye her into the defendants. He is a lying, cheating, womanizer and he needs to be disbarred. At the courthouse in Douglas County the bailiff, a nice old white man, gave me a bible and told me that McDade knows your daughter is innocent, he is just upset because he has a girlfriend that lives near the store that those boys robbed of the $600 dollars. The bailiff said that he lives on the same street that the girlfriend lives on. Than McDade approached an looked sternly at the old man. I said uh oh , old man said I am retired he does not scare me, I just work here couple days a week. He apologized for what the system was doing to my daughter. She is now in prison over 6 years. I say>>> OUT WITH MINIMUM MANDATORY SENTENCING>>>>>It does not look at the mitigating circumstances it just says if you were there than you did it. >>>so lets take a 10 year chunk outta your life no matter what the circumstances. Not to mention it turns our prosecutors into conviction junkies.... Think folks back to when you were coming up!! you are not responsible for another person's actions. They did it>>> they should pay the crime not the innocent bystanders.
From A Mother. My fantastic, innocent daughter who's life has been ruined by some over zealous prosecutor who would stop at nothing to win!

Posted by: JEParker | Sep 17, 2007 6:51:52 PM

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