Thursday, July 5, 2007

Clemency and Pardon in Washington

Of course the President's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence is getting a lot of attention -- but what about clemency and pardon here in Washington? The Seattle Weekly has a long article on it: Gov. Gregoire: One Tough Clemency Judge, Seattle Weekly, July 4, 2007.

The story leads with Barry Massey, who has served 20 years of a life sentence for a murder he participated in when he was 13. Four out of five members of the Clemency and Pardons Board recommended that he be granted clemency if his prison record remains good for five more years. (The fifth was persuaded that clemency was inappropriate because of the victim's family's statements.) Gov. Gregoire decided not to grant clemency, at least at this time (he can apply again in three years).

The article compares Gov. Gregoire's record with those of Governors Locke and Lowry. She has rejected the board's recommendations more than they did -- but she has also granted more petitions in her first two years in office than Gov. Locke did in his.

The governor's power to pardon comes from the state constitution (Art. III, sec. 9):

The pardoning power shall be vested in the governor under such regulations and restrictions as may be prescribed by law.
The Clemency and Pardons Board was established to advise the governor in 1981 (as part of the Sentencing Reform Act); its statutory provisions are RCW 9.94A.880 and 9.94A.885.

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