Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pardon me, Governor Abbott, but about your clemency policy?

Despite recent national attention to clemency policy, I've yet to hear of any reporter asking Texas Governor Greg Abbott about his. Might he order a review of the hundreds of cases in which the Board of Pardons and Parole recommended clemency and Perry never signed off to see if deserving candidates were overlooked? Should we expect clemency to be exercised regularly as a routine part of the governor's duties or will it be relegated to symbolic Christmastime media rituals, as under his predecessor? And in general, as Grits wondered last November:
Will Greg Abbott exercise clemency more generously than Perry? Texas' longest serving governor rejected two-thirds of recommendations for clemency sent to him by the Board of Pardons and Paroles, for the most part allowing the constitutional pardon power to atrophy on his watch. He's not the only executive-branch figure to ignore the clemency process: It's something Rick Perry and Barack Obama have in common. Still, to my knowledge, no reporter ever questioned Greg Abbott during the campaign about his stance on executive clemency: Other than his view that governors can issue posthumous pardons, who knows what Abbott thinks about the pardon power?
Along with vetoes and bill signing, clemency is one of a handful of unique executive powers in a system based on separation of powers. But you wouldn't know that from the gubernatorial campaigns last year nor from media coverage of Texas' executive, which typically treats clemency as a Christmastime afterthought if it's considered at all. As much as I'm pessimistic about whether Abbott might adopt a more aggressive clemency policy, I'm even more disappointed that the man made it all the way to the governor's mansion seemingly without ever facing a question about clemency or discussing the issue publicly at all. That speaks more to a failure of press and process.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I doubt he would have garnered much favor with his Republican voting base if he'd promised to use executive clemency MORE. What you have expected him to say if he was asked?

Wolf Sittler said...

I don't recall any of the candidates talking about anything to do with clemency, or the entire criminal justice system. Quite strange in that TDCJ is one of the many state agencies that could be downsized and meet the conservative goals of limited government and lower taxes. Is this because it is still political suicide to talk reform?

Anonymous said...

@Wolf,... In Texas, I suspect there are still a greater majority of Republicans who desire for criminals to be locked up.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

1:10 asked: "What you have expected him to say if he was asked?"

The key word is "expect." My expectations, as the post stated, would be pessimistic. If instead you asked "What would I WANT him to say?" It would be: That clemency has been a too-long ignored gubernatorial responsibility, that it should be a ongoing part of a governor's duties, not a once-a-year symbolic photo op. Perhaps he might quote the Federalist Papers to say that "The criminal code of every country partakes so much of necessary severity, that without an easy access to exceptions in favor of unfortunate guilt, justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel." Did I "expect" it? No. But it's what I wish he'd said, and I don't think it'd have hurt him an iota against Wendy Davis if he had.

@1:58, when crimjust topics came up during the campaign it was in weird ways like Wendy Davis advocating no statute of limitations for rape. She tried to run to Abbott's right, it didn't work, then both stayed away from the topic, Wolf is right about that. OTOH, Perry is running on crimjust reform in Texas nationally, so he doesn't seem to think it's political suicide.

sunray's wench said...

To play devil's advocate for a moment: why should any governor bestow clemancy on anyone?

I'm nowhere near the right in my politics, but it seems to me that if you get the courts and parole system right, then clemancy would not be necessary. Perhaps that's what the governors are hoping for?

S with no C said...

The lack of need for clemency is something we should ALL hope for, not just the governors. The bleak truth, however, is that the courts and parole systems DON'T always get it right (as we all (should) know).
The real question is, is any governor or anyone else in an executive position actually willing to admit that our judicial system is seriously flawed and equally willing to work towards reforming it?

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Anonymous said...

Sunray, the generic answer to your question is "to fulfill the purpose for which the Texas constitution empowered the elected governor to achieve through the power to grant clemency."

Govt should serve the people. Therefore, clemency is a tool to achieve that. It's existence in law should be viewed as a check on the power of the judiciary. We know from a growing number of exonerations that the criminal justice system fails often or at least more than it should.

Anonymous said...

Grits, why don't you ask the governor yourself?
How hard can it be to simply submit your question to his office ?


As an aside, grits, if you had a better social media network, your own journalistic effort with this blog would have much higher standing. You probably think it's too much of a hassle but I think you're selling yourself short.

This blog is a bit of an island. You should connect it to the mainland. Why am I bringing this up? Because in this article you are ultimately expressing disappointment with the Texas media. But what I'm saying is if you took just a few more steps, you would be a bigger voice in the media.

sunray's wench said...

Anon @ 4.59 ~ thank you. It's a strange concept for me to understand as we don't have it over here.

DEWEY said...

I'm willing to bet that IF he is convicted, Rick Perry will be Abbott's first pardon.....

The Homeless Cowboy said...

@5:06 Grits writes a blog about the criminal Justice system here in Texas. I believe the intro into today's epistle stated that these were some things to discuss whilst Grits focuses elsewhere. Also, I do believe as a blog author it is his job to ask provocative questions that are designed to provoke thought and discussion among us. I am sure upon reflection you would agree. Bless Your Heart.

Anonymous said...

when a former A.D.A commits obstruction of justice by having people lie on stand to protect a drug informant, and puts away an innocent man, don't you think he (the innocent man) deserves clemency after 24 years of rotting in prison? And don't you think the former A.D.A deserves to spend at least half of the time of the 25 years in prison, and not just a slap on the hand?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@5:06, coupla things. First, at different points I have done more legwork on these issues, filing OR requests and compiling data on clemency at a time when no Texas reporter had done so. However, I'm not a reporter, that's a full time job and I can't consistently do it for them. This blog exists for my own purposes, not to fulfill others' information needs.

Second, re: social media, I barely have time to write what's on the blog. Nobody pays me to do this and as near as I can tell, nobody wants to. So when I have a little spare time, I write here. Time spent on Twitter, Facebook, etc., would just take away from what's already a dwindling temporal resource.

Also, I don't particularly seek wide readership. At all. Some readers, in fact, I discourage. When I think somebody in particular should read a post, I email them the link. Otherwise, island life is pretty good and, unlike on the mainland, one needn't deal with quite as many tourists.

@sw, some might say that, but in light of the growing bipartisan critique of mass incarceration, fewer can do so with a straight face.

Anonymous said...

You want him to quote the Federalist Papers? What, do you think Republicans care about original intent?

Jason

Anonymous said...

Actually, Sunray's Wench, if you live in England (I think you do) there is a traditional Royal Prerogative of Mercy which is still exercised from time to time (and it has been suggested that scientist Alan Turing should be posthumously pardoned). It just doesn't get much publicity, perhaps because the civilized world doesn't have the death penalty, and because custodial sentences in England are rarely as draconian as in the U.S.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Grits, thanks for taking the trash out and for asking questions that the monopolies tell staff to stay away from.

Regarding Pardons - Fool Pardons

Speaking as a former documented 'Applicant' and recipient of: not one, but two 'Denied' awards, I for one wouldn't dare spend another waking moment seeking a piece of paper with the word Pardon anywhere on it.

When I asked Abbott and Co. to force the Clemency Section to comply with an ignored OR request (seeking a copy of a letter sent in by the (Retired) ADA of Record (Mr. Casey J. O'Brien) asking them to deny), Abbott sided with the CS. With the deck staked against Applicants' (Guilty & Not Guilty alike) and since the process is 100% devoid of an Official Apology, I say the following -

FUCK-A-PARDON. I wouldn't accept one even if Perry, Abbott & Obama were to issue it in person. I highly discourage anyone from seeking one, for it is: very time consuming, a waste of energy & money. RIGGED. If you are 100% innocent (Not Guilty) and can prove it, a Pardon does nothing for you. Plus, the ADA of Record kills it in the womb (Full Pardons - for/based on innocence) every single time with a simple letter, leaving the Governor free to deal with campaigns. If you pay a third party to assist you in applying, you are a fool. If you think that the original three trial officials (Judge, DA, & Sheriff) will issue unanimous letters of recommendations agreeing that they and/or their predecessors engaged in criminal conduct, you are a damn fool. Please don't be a fool like I was. It took me about four years to figure out that it's Rigged.

Instead of asking or wondering about a useless process (that should have been done away with decades ago), I ask everyone to consider asking Gov. Abbott to explain - Why does Texas plays games with what could have been one of the state's most important tools in response to decades of (& possibly preventing future): police, prosecutorial, defense & bench related criminal conduct that results in convictions of the innocent? Asking him to reform it to include an Apology & Restoration of Rights & Remove the policy requiring the original three trial officials input for the innocent while leaving the Pardon for the guilty would be in the best interest of all Texans' (despite the gang one is affiliated with), taxpaying Texans that is. Or, we can simply continue to pay-off the pre-selected wronged and settle in for 14 more years of a Fake/Rigged Department telling the innocent and the horses they ride in on, to FUCK Off.

Thanks.

sunray's wench said...

Anon @ 8.40 ~ Alan Turin received a royal pardon 2 years ago, but 50,000 other homosexuals who were convicted of essentially being gay were not and there is a campaign to obtain royal pardons for them all. Which is a good thing.

But you are right, it is hardly ever used here, and America doesn't have a monarchy structure. Pardons are an admission that the judicial system failed, so it would seem more appropriate to be pushing to get it fixed, than hoping for random clemancy orders for friends of friends of those issuing them.

Tyra Wilson said...

I have been recommended 2 times to receive a full pardon from the board of Pardons and Parole for a misdemeanor that prevents me from getting jobs. The worst part is that now when a person gets in trouble for what I did they receive a ticket.

it's all about freedom said...

My fiance has been falsely accused of a crime he didn't commit. He was sentenced to thirty years and he had witnesses that testified on his behalf and there was no evidence but only the ones who actually did it. He has served half his sentence. He has contacted innocence project the mayor and anything you can think of. Should we not write a letter if pardon? I feel that just needs to be served! We all know who did it! He didn't even get a fair trial and his court appointment lawyer didn't even represent him!

it's all about freedom said...

My fiance was charged with a 30 year sentence for a crime that he never committed. He has been trying to claim his innocence for 14 years. There was no evidence that led to him but only to the people who actually did it. He had witnesses to testify on his behalf but they was never called to the stand. I feel that justice needs to be served. All because of a mistaken identity 14 years of this man's life has been taken away! We have tried everything. A Rush to Judgment Destroys a life!