Keith Edward Turner was convicted of rape in 1983 in Dallas County was sentenced to 20 years and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. Post-conviction DNA testing has shown that Turner is innocent, and the trial court issued findings that support Turner's innocence. The district attorney, trial court, sheriff and police chief all supported the pardon. At the time of his trial, DNA testing was not used because it had not been approved for admission into evidence in Texas courts.The other cases were a motley assortment of low-level crimes for which pardons were recommended, most where the defendant committed a minor offense in their twenties and long ago finished serving their sentence. They included property crimes, family violence, a DWI, and one drug offense (marijuana possession).
Entre Nax Karage was convicted of murder in 1997 in Dallas County and received a life sentence. Following new DNA testing, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said new evidence "cast doubt on the reliability of (Karage's) conviction." The pardon for innocence was supported by the district attorney, the trial court and the sheriff.
I've never looked closely at that agency's criteria for recommending pardons, but one wonders why these dozen folks merited such redemption while many thousands more in the same circumstance do not? I'm not saying these twelve people don't deserve pardons. I'm thinking the agency should recommend many more, and the governor should encourage his appointees to consider more cases from these types of offenders.
Today, one in eleven Texas adults has a felony conviction on their record. Mass pardons of certain classes of youthful offenders -- say, those who committed one or two minor offenses in their twenties then had no more convictions for a decade -- could really help such folks find employment and improve their own lives and their families'. The "felon" label creates barriers to employment, housing, and community participation that follow people around for their whole lives. If the prospect for pardons were real, it would encourage good behavior while folks applied, actually improving public safety as a result. Plus, it would give the Governor more good press every yuletide, letting him look like a compassionate conservative at Christmas. I don't see a down side.
RELATED: Doc Berman had three informative posts before Christmas on the subject of clemency and pardons.