As always, congratulations to all those who receive well-deserved their clemency!
In two batches of decisions in the month of November, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker granted clemency to a total of 29 individuals. Of the 29, 23 were in the form of a pardon while the remaining 6 were for commutations of sentences.
As always, congratulations to all those who receive well-deserved their clemency!
On Friday, outgoing Illinois governor Bruce Rauner released his final batch of executive clemency decisions. Included in the group were 31 pardons, four commutations of sentence, and 268 denials. The pardons come with the authorization to expunge the cases from the criminal records of the receipients.
With the 303 decisions, Rauner cleared out all of the remaining pending petitions from the docket. So, incoming governor J.B. Pritzker will start from a fresh slate.
Congratulations to all those that have received their well-earned clemency!
Rauner Plans to Clear Clemency Backlog
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has stated that he plans to clear out any backlog of clemency petitions remaining before leaving office. Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker is inaugurated on January 14, 2019. So, if you have a clemency petition before the Governor now, you can expect to hear something in the coming weeks. Good luck!
Yesterday, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced that he has released the final batch of clemency decisions for petitions filed under previous administrations. Now all clemency petitions that are pending before the governor were filed while he was in office.
The backlog of clemency decisions was created under former Governor Rod Blagojevich. During his six years in office, he only decided on around 1,000 petitions. The rest were simply ignored and allowed to pile up. When Blagojevich was removed from office, roughly 3,000 sat pending for incoming Governor Pat Quinn.
Former Governor Quinn acted on 4,928 petitions during his six years in office, granting 1,795 of them. Quinn's batches of clemency decisions typically mixed newer petitions in with older ones. So while Quinn decided on more petitions than the backlog he inherited, some petitions filed under Blagojevich remained when Quinn left office.
Gov. Rauner, by contrast, has mostly decided on petitions by order of filing. In his two years as governor, Rauner has acted on 2,333 clemency petition, granted 80 pardons and three commutations. With yesterday's release, Rauner has completely worked through the remaining petitions filed before he took office.
In the AP article, Rauner acknowledged that he is not as good as Quinn was when it comes to granting petitions, but defended himself by pointing at governors in some other states who are even less merciful.
This afternoon, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner released his tenth batch of executive clemency decisions ahead of the 4th of July weekend. For this batch, Rauner decided on 157 petitions, granting seven and denying 150. Of the seven granted, six came in the form of pardon with authorization to expunge, while the other was a commutation of sentence. According to the governor's office, roughly 500 petitions remain in the backlog from previous administrations.
Congratulations to those receiving clemency, and happy Independence Day to all!
Just as the Governor has the power to grant executive clemency for individuals convicted at the state level, the President can offer clemency to those convicted at the federal level. Today, President Obama exercised that power by commuting the sentences of 46 federal prisoners. The individuals receiving the commutations were non-violent drug offenders sentenced under the old and absurdly harsh drug laws. According to video released by the President, nearly all of those receiving clemency would have completed their sentences already, had they been convicted under today's laws.
Last year, President Obama announced an initiative to offer clemency to the non-violent drug offenders convicted under the old laws. With today's batch, Obama has now commuted the sentences for 89 prisoners, the vast majority of whom applied under that initiative.
Commutation of sentence is a form of executive clemency which reduces or terminates a sentence that an individual is currently serving. This differs from a pardon, which is granted after the sentence is completed and serves as forgiveness from the state or country.
Former U.S. Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. is hoping to receive a pardon from President Obama after the termination of Jackson’s sentence for misspending campaign money. This was recently stated in a letter composed by John Karoly, who is a fellow inmate, former attorney, and authorized by Jackson, Jr. to release his statement. According to the AP article, Karoly stated:
In the single stroke of a pen, the President, on behalf of the American people, can convert the intangible myth of America's forgiveness into what Jesse rightly insists is a matter of human entitlement. When you pay off your credit card debt in full, you no longer owe anything. The full utilization of the President's power to forgive, may be the greatest legacy any President can leave behind.
It is an interesting time to beat the drum for Presidential clemency. Last month, news broke of President Obama’s plan for broad and systematic commutations given to those who are suffering from (now-repealed) draconian sentencing guidelines.
While that particular plan would not apply to Jackson’s case, President Obama is making it clear that he is finally ready to start flexing his clemency muscle. He recently replaced U.S. Pardon Attorney Ronald Rogers with Deborah Leff. Rogers, a former military judge and drug crimes prosecutor, had a reputation for being unsympathetic for clemency petitioners. Leff represents a significant shift in the mentality for federal executive clemency. With her history of fighting for fair sentencing and helping the poor, Leff will almost assuredly send more petitions to Obama’s desk with a recommendation to grant clemency.
This will be a happy Easter weekend for many clemency petitioners. Today, Governor Pat Quinn released his latest batch of clemency decisions, which includes 43 granted and 65 denied. Since he has taken office, Governor Quinn has decided on 2,923 clemency petitions (pardon and commutation), granting 1,075 of them.
As always, congratulations to those of you receiving executive clemency! May you go into the next chapter of your life with happiness and success!
President Obama Grants Clemency to 21
This week, President Obama granted clemency to 21 individuals, including 8 commutations. It is good to see the President pick up the pace on clemency decisions, as he has been among the lowest in US history for clemency actions.
The commutations were for those sentenced under the harsh federal guidelines which, at that time, mandated a life sentence for selling crack cocaine. Among those was an Illinois man sentenced as a teenager almost 20 years ago, despite it being his first offense.
Congratulations to those that received the clemency actions! And thank you to President Obama for making this a truly special holiday season for these individuals!
In a pretty scathing article, the Associated Press recently reported that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has not issued any pardon decisions since he took office. Worse still, he hasn’t even appointed anyone to his pardon advisory board. He’s refusing to even give the appearance that pardon applications from people in his state are being respectfully reviewed.
Walker’s anti-pardon policy echoes what we recently saw here in Illinois. Our last Governor, Rod Blagojevich, failed to issue any pardon decisions during his six years in office. The comparison serves as a reminder that clemency is not a partisan issue—Walker is a Republican and Blagojevich is a Democrat. Fortunately, Blagojevich’s successor, Governor Pat Quinn, has been steadily working his way through the backlog of pardon petitions in Illinois. He’s granted hundreds of executive clemency petitions so far. This makes him one of the most proactive governors in the country to issue pardons, along with California Governor Jerry Brown and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe.
I applaud the AP for calling the public’s attention to Walker’s failing. There are currently more than 1,400 pardon requests sitting on his desk. Many of these requests come from individuals who long ago served their time and are trying to be productive citizens. The AP interviewed one Wisconsin man who’s been offered a job contingent upon receiving a pardon. The man is currently having trouble making ends meet, and is upset at Walker’s stance. He told the AP:
“Is that the plan? For all of us to fail? To have people leeching off the state? For me to lose my house? [Walker's] slogan is we've got to move Wisconsin forward. Well, you know what, Mr. Walker? I need to move forward. I'm not asking for a handout. All I need is a signature from him. Do something. Don't just sit there."
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