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July 10, 2007

Lots of clemency food-for-thought

I am about to head out to make sure I get to DC on time for tomorrow's exciting House Judiciary Committee hearing on Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence (basics here).  And, thanks to former pardon attorney Margaret Love, I have some fitting reading for my trip.  Margy has completed a small commentary entitled "Rethinking the President’s Pardon Power." Here is a snippet from the piece, which can be downloaded below:

There are many who believe that it is time to consider new approaches to criminal prosecution and sentencing, to reduce our reliance on incarceration and end the racial disparities resulting from our law enforcement practices.  If the pardon power is to play a useful role in this law reform effort, as it has in past eras, public confidence in it must be restored.  The criteria that presently exist in the Justice Department's policies are perfectly good ones.  What needs improvement is the perceived fairness of the pardon process, the regularity and frequency of pardon grants, and above all the president's commitment to using the power in an intentional and generous fashion.

Download rethinking_pardons_by_love.doc

In addition, Margy set along updated post-WWII clemency statistics from the Office of the Pardon Attorney, which can be downloaded here:

Download presidential_clemency_stats_1945present.doc

UPDATEFamilies Against Mandatory Minimums has geared up for the house hearing with this press release, which makes these major point:

Although Mr. Libby's high profile commutation merits discussion, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) has written to the committee urging it to also explore how commutations should be used to reduce excessive sentences of deserving, nonviolent federal prisoners.  Click here to read FAMM's letter.  Many such prisoners have applied for and not received commutations, although they have served long portions of their sentences and their behavior in prison has been exemplary.  It is especially troubling that many prisoners wait years to receive a decision and some petitions filed as far back as 2000 have not been acted upon. 

The referenced letter includes a dozen questions about commutations that "FAMM suggests the Committee pose ... to the Pardon Attorney, Roger Adams, at the hearing."

July 10, 2007 at 04:14 PM | Permalink


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» The Libby Hearing Today from White Collar Crime Prof Blog
The House Judiciary Committee discussing Libby's sentence commutation is set for today, with Professor Doug Berman of the Sentencing Law Policy Blog scheduled to speak. For details see his blog here. And while you are over at Doug Berman's blog, [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 11, 2007 1:46:40 AM

» Berman on the Libby Clemency from StandDown Texas Project
Doug Berman has more at his Sentencing Law and Policy in this post:I am about to head out to make sure I get to DC on time for tomorrow's exciting House Judiciary Committee hearing on Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 11, 2007 12:54:02 PM


My two cents:



Posted by: P.S. Ruckman, Jr. | Jul 10, 2007 8:11:59 PM

With all due respect to Margy Love (known to those who worked at DOJ in the 90's as Margaret COLGATE Love) it certainly doesn't appear from the stats that her tenure as Pardon Attorney was particularly "sympathetic" to those seeking clemency. Woud it be fair to ask exactly what level of pro-clemency "advocacy" she engaged in at the time?

Posted by: anonymous | Jul 10, 2007 11:25:21 PM

The unfortunate reality is that the "victim's rights" movement will not tolerate executive clemency in america. It will never happen. The poor victims need their closure. In addition, any executive who grants clemency stakes all his or her political capital on becoming an insurer of the good behavior of the clemency recipients. If someone pardons a criminal who then goes out and commits a new crime, boom, that's the end of a political career. That's why most pardons are done long after the offender is out of prison, and quite often posthumously.

Posted by: bruce | Jul 11, 2007 1:45:43 AM

"Quite often posthumously"

Uh, I don't think so.

Posted by: P.S. Ruckman, Jr. | Jul 11, 2007 11:07:44 AM

Hi Professor Berman--was in your Sentencing Guidelines seminar (98? 99? Been a while, unfortunately) and did an independent study on capital appeal waivers with you.

Glad to have found this site--good to know some things never change, you're still giving me good stuff to read. :) Just wanted to say hi, thanks for everything, and it's good to know Congress will be getting solid info on this one.

Posted by: michelle g | Jul 11, 2007 1:13:47 PM

My favorite exchange was the first after the break, with Professor Berman on mandatory sentencing. The real issue here is that the Republicans do not actually believe in mandatory sentencing and probably never did.

Berman quotes: Scholar: A longer jail term for Libby would be 'reasonable'

"The stated reasons that President Bush gave for commuting all of Libby's prison time are hard to understand, perhaps even harder to justify," argued Douglas Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University who also produces the Sentencing Law and Policy blog..

"Under existing precedent, the DC Court of Appeals would have considered Mr. Libby's 30 months prison term, and even a longer term set within the guidelines presumptively reasonable under appeal," he added.

Posted by: George | Jul 11, 2007 5:52:44 PM

P.S. Ruckman: Posthumous pardons are done routinely (routinely insofar as pardons and commutations are concerned). See http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2006/05/contrasting_pos.html

Posted by: bruce | Jul 11, 2007 9:17:02 PM

Oh, you mean at the state level. Maybe. Even then, I am willing to guess they are a very, very small part of the total clememcy pool.


Posted by: PSRuckman | Jul 11, 2007 10:44:54 PM

Bruce, I take your "poor victims must have their closure" comment as being somewhat insensitive to victims of crime. Perhaps it was not meant that way.

As for "closure" or whatever that means, I think that what most victims really want is for the guy who did it to serve a stretch in the pokey commensurate with his transgression. If someone molested one of my (very young) children and got a year, thoughts of personal retribution would be on my brain. If he did a long spell, perhaps less so.

For a murderer, it is simply immoral for that person ever to be free again.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 11, 2007 11:37:37 PM

federalist: for nearly every victim I've ever seen or heard from, a "stretch in the pokey commensurate with [the criminal's] transgression" is the rest of his/her life.

Lots of convicted murderers are people who acted in self-defense and were unfortunate enough to get an overly zealous prosecutor and a dumb jury that doesn't believe in the right to possess and use firearms in self defense. These defendants should never have been charged, should never have been convicted, and should have to serve not a single day in prison, let alone the rest of their lives.

Right now the Harris County (texas) DA is trying to convict this poor girl who--killed a gang member in self defense--of murder. The first jury hung. The prosecutor had called as state's witnesses a bunch of members of the "victim's" gang (the notorious MS-13) to testify as to how peace-loving they are and how they would never attack a woman, ergo she must have attacked first and not in self defense. Seriously. Unless she takes a plea deal for a reduced time in prison for a murder sentence, Harris County DA will retry her for murder. You think she should have to spend the rest of her life in prison? Sometimes DA's want a challenge... it's easy to convict guilty people, a monkey could do it. It takes some legal skill and talent (although in harris county, not very much) to convict an innocent person.

And of course, the victim's family is there crying for retribution, crosses hanging off of their necks like always. Christians are the least forgiving people in the world. What would jesus do? Do the opposite. Unless a Christian victim/victim's family member is going to testify that the defendant has been forgiven by them and should be forgiven by the state, they should not be allowed to testify at sentencing unless they first renounce their faith under oath.

Posted by: bruce | Jul 12, 2007 7:01:20 PM

Hey buddy! Nice blog that you maintain here.. I just chanced upon your blog surfing the blogosphere. I was thinking.. you could try out some interesting widgets on your page and spice it up with more relevant information. E.g try out the new widget on http://www.widgetmate.com with your relevant keywords

Posted by: Alex Smith | Jul 13, 2007 4:24:42 AM

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