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July 19, 2012

Press and pressure prompting talk of clemency reforms in White House

As reported in this encouraging new story from Danfa Linzer at ProPublica, headlined "Obama Administration Wants Review of Prisoner’s Commutation Request," it appears that all the bad press about federal clemency practices has gotten some traction in the White House. Here is how the story starts:

The Obama administration has asked for a fresh review of an Alabama federal inmate's commutation request and directed the Justice Department to conduct its first ever in-depth analysis of recommendations for presidential pardons, according to several officials and individuals involved.

The Office of Pardon Attorney has been at the center of growing controversy since December, when stories published by ProPublica and The Washington Post revealed a racial disparity in pardons. White applicants were four times more likely to receive presidential mercy than minorities. African Americans had the least chance of success.

A subsequent story published in May recounted the saga of Clarence Aaron, a first-time offender sentenced in 1993 to three life terms in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy. In 2008, the pardon attorney recommended that President George W. Bush deny Aaron's request for a commutation even though his application had the support of the prosecutor's office that tried him and the judge who sentenced him. The pardon attorney, Ronald L. Rodgers, did not fully disclose that information to the White House.

The handling of Aaron's case prompted widespread criticism that the pardon office -- which has rejected applications at an unprecedented pace under Rodgers -- is not giving clemency requests proper consideration.

Aaron filed a new commutation request in 2010, which is pending. In the past two months, his cause has been taken up by members of Congress, law professors and prominent civil rights advocates, many of whom have called for a broader investigation of the pardon process.

Since 2008, more than 7,000 applications for commutations have been denied, more than 22 times the total rejected in President Ronald Reagan's two terms. Obama has commuted the sentence of just one person. Recent presidents also have granted fewer pardons than their predecessors. Bush granted 189 during his two-term presidency, less than half the number pardoned by President Bill Clinton. So far, Obama has pardoned 22 individuals.

Advisers to the president said they expect that number to rise significantly whether or not he is elected to a second term. "There will be 76 days between the election and inauguration for the president to exercise his power," said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

Officials said there has been growing interest inside the White House for reforming the pardon process, specifically how recommendations are made to the president.

Though I am very disinclined to count any clemency chickens before they are hatched, this story at least gives some new hope to those long concerned about modern federal pardon practices.

July 19, 2012 at 03:22 AM | Permalink


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\\ "Marc Rich received a controversial pardon from U.S. President Bill Clinton on January 20, 2001, Clinton's last day in office. At a congressional hearing into whether the pardon was granted in exchange for Denise Rich's contributions to the U.S. Democratic Party and the Clinton Library, she invoked the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which denies Congress the authority to compel self-incrimination.[4] // ~~wikipedia

"Lady Gatsby:
Denise Rich is known for great parties...To others, she is the instrument of the second-most infamous moment in Bill Clinton's presidency, the eleventh-hour pardon of her tax-fugitive ex-husband, Marc Rich, who had been on the run for 17 years.

Buying a $1 million "get out of jail free" card isn't quite the same as throwing a World Series, which is what Gatsby's shadowy mentor was accused of, but Denise does get major chutzpah points. If published accounts are true,
she was staying at the White House on Clinton's last night in office when her ex-husband's pardon was presented and signed.
A successful singer and songwriter in her own right, Denise then declined to sing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pleading the Fifth Amendment".~~yachtingmagazine.com

|| In the Clinton pardon scandal, Holder was deputy attorney general when his duties intersected with the efforts of Rich's lawyer, Jack Quinn, who had been White House counsel earlier in the Clinton administration.

The entire matter was handled in an unorthodox manner - on a straight line from Rich's lawyer to the White House, with a consulting role for Holder. || ~~seattletimes.nwsource.com

Posted by: Adamakis | Jul 19, 2012 9:09:22 AM

What's the rush? Holder does his Rich-est work at the 11th hour.

Posted by: Adamakis | Jul 19, 2012 9:12:19 AM

From the article: "'There will be 76 days between the election and inauguration for the president to exercise his power,' said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly."

You don't have to be a genius to read between the lines of that one. Liberals, fear not. You might be unhappy with some of Obama's policies so far, but I think you're in for the biggest pardon bonanza of all time. It's going to be sizeable if he wins (and thus is still liable to political pressure) and gargantuan if he loses (think Marc Rich x 100).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 19, 2012 10:08:48 AM

Bill --

I don't know. My read on Obama is that his is significantly less liberal than I or my comrades had hoped, not that he's waiting to strike right after he gets elected for a second term (or becomes a lame duck, either way). Totes love to be proven wrong though.

Posted by: Guy | Jul 19, 2012 5:02:48 PM

Not liberal enough or not socialist enough?

Maybe you had fashioned Barack Obama as a Norman Thomas double, who, though neither at Columbia nor with ACORN,

"[at Princeton] studying political science under future president Woodrow Wilson and graduating in 1905 as valedictorian."
"helped establish what became the ACLU"

This was attributed to Thomas:
| | " " The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of *liberalism
they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened. " " | | 2/26/67


Posted by: Adamakis | Jul 20, 2012 1:06:30 PM

My brother,(Mr. Richard L. Poole;inmate at Stateville Correctional Facility;# A-74146) has been jailed OVER 32 years, for a crime of NO relations to murder, rape OR extortion, yet he has been denied relief. We are STILL hopeful of him receiving CLEMENCY which he has recently applied for.

I have asked Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn, to reconsider his case, being that he IS reformed/rehabilitated and would be a GREAT asset, to the community that he choses to live in.

I ALSO listed his MANY talents;Mechanics/Art and his edutational stills whom we ALL, have taken heed to and continue to expose to our children AND grandchildren.

I TOO, feel that he is ready, willing AND able, to be a productive individual in society and have the stills to prove it.

I, MYSELF, KNOWS, that he can EASILY teach computer skills to ANYONE and manage ANY realtor property, for HE, is WHOM I, have kept dear, MANY of my learnings, through life and I know, (age 54), sees how these same teaching, will help him to susceed to enjoy the remaining of his life with his family(including his children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews who love and DEARLY miss him).

With that, I'm PLEADING for our president(Mr. O'Bama, whom I refuse to even listen to negativity about), to grant Richard, CLEMENCY and allow him the opportunity to exercise his many great skils to continue to help his family and others childrens, as we ALL know and love about him and are assured that he can and will, prove that he is ready to show society.

Posted by: ELois Poole-Clayton | Jul 20, 2012 3:32:22 PM

@ Adamakis:


Posted by: Guy | Jul 20, 2012 4:02:43 PM

"Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance and the gospel of envy."~~Churchill, '48

I didn't fight in Iraq of Afghanland for that.

Posted by: Adamakis | Jul 20, 2012 7:25:52 PM

@ Adamakis:

What a relief to me.

Posted by: Guy | Jul 21, 2012 12:17:42 AM

Give us a break, Adamakis. Some of us liberals are veterans, too.

And it would be a snap to match/top your Churchill quotes with equally bombastic bromides from other giants of history attesting to the failure of conservativism and the shortcomings of its proponents. So what?

The arrogance of you right-wing folks is breathtaking. What you deride as socialism has been part of the American experience for more than 80 years. Moreover, much of it originated as a last-ditch effort to save carnivore capitalism from itself.

BTW I'm assuming THE reason you fought in "Iraq of Afghanland" is that that's where you were stationed.

Posted by: John K | Jul 21, 2012 5:02:32 PM

I am no sure I agree with Bill's prediction re a pardon bonanza. It seems to have the same gravity as similar predictions re Bush.


On the other hand, it is sad to see a White House suggest justice for clemency applicants depends on the outcome of the election. That makes for a sad day in American politics. I mean, it is one thing for to be true, and still yet another to suggest it is true, or act like it. But to announce it as an accepted fact? A new high in low.

Posted by: P.S. Ruckman, Jr. | Jul 22, 2012 12:50:20 PM

No John K:

I went IA--freely, 1st to
volunteer from my unit (1st deployment).

As a vet, I trust that you prefer constitutional change to that of the socialist, Norman Thomas.

Find a giant of history to agree with you.

Welfare syndrome and Jane Fonda astride a North Vietnamese AAA, have been part of the American experience as well.

Posted by: Adamakis | Jul 23, 2012 11:04:01 AM

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