Executive Pardons

So with Trump as president, I realize that this topic can be distorted by current fairs. But on reading this story about the outgoing Kentucky governor, I honestly don’t know how I feel about executive pardons: https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/13/politics/former-kentucky-governor-matt-bevin-pardons/index.html

On the one hand, it seems to fly in the face of rule of law. On the other hand, I recognize that injustice happens every day and folks are wrongly convicted and/or punished too heavily.

Once it’s all said an done, my personal view is that the power needs some sort of review, at least for very serious crimes (e.g., murder, rape/sexual assault).

What if the House had a chance at a 2/3 vote to override a pardon within 10 days? Seems like that would cover very egregious pardons. Except when they’re done for political purposes of course.

Not that it matters. This would take a Constitutional amendment, right?

Among the pardoned was Patrick Baker, who served just two years of a 19-year sentence for reckless homicide, impersonating a police officer, and tampering with evidence. Baker was convicted along with two others for a deadly 2014 home invasion where a father was killed in front of his family. Baker’s brother and sister-in-law raised $21,500 last year to retire Bevin’s 2015 gubernatorial campaign debt. They also donated $4,000 at the July 2018 fundraiser held at their home. Baker’s two co-defendants did not get pardoned by Bevin and remain in prison. “I’ve never seen a more compelling or complete case,” the sentencing judge said of Baker. “The evidence was just overwhelming.”

Given the sheer volume of pardons, I’m going to give Bevin the benefit of the doubt that not all, or even most, of the pardons were due to shenanigans such as that. He seemed to have pardoned folks across the spectrum, for a wide variety of crimes.

Frankly, given the numbers, I don’t think he had time to review most of them. Seems like he just signed which ever ones that were put in front of him, probably put together by some team he trusted. It’s possible that the team was heavily motivated by donations, but given the makeup of the pardons, that seems unlikely for most of them. Cynicism would say that the others were a smokescreen.

I honestly don’t know what to make of it, since it doesn’t fit our traditional molds of political affiliation, in either direction.

If he pardoned 10 people who donated to his campaign, would you view that as horribly corrupt and in need of some remedy?

If the 10 were among ~400 pardons? It frankly could just be coincidence.

Or, it could be that he wanted to pardon those 10 people and additional pardons cost him nothing but conceal his intent.

Yeah, smokescreen effect. It’s always possible. The numbers provided for Baker seem pretty small potatoes for this kind of controversy.

Frankly, I was hoping to discuss the issue, minus the corruption angle, which kind of diverts away from what I think is already a controversial issue, even when corruption isn’t involved.

As I understand it, a governor can hypothetically empty state penitentiaries on their way out the door, if they so choose.

It certainly seems like a long way to go for one family that made modest contributions. But we don’t really know if they are the only ones - perhaps some are personal motives, some are monetary, some are genuine, and the rest are smokescreen. It’s honestly the most logical explanation.

Yeah, I don’t know what would happen in that case. What if they issued a blanket pardon for all individuals for all crimes committed against the state, past, present, and future? Or even just prior to their last day in office?

If you assume that the Governor is not corrupt and is simply able to act according to their own conscience, then the pardon power makes sense. However, it becomes a significant issue even then if they have views wildly outside the mainstream and they conceal those views during the election (or simply adopt them once in office).

I think it needs to be possible to prosecute someone who issues pardons in a way that significantly abuses the system, but of course, then you have to define what that means and it would create a chilling effect on pardons because people wouldn’t want to give ammo to their enemies.

Maybe when you win the election, you get handed a coupon book. 10 free pardons, no questions asked or something. An additional 10 coupons where the pardon is subject to some form of review.

The power just seems crazy to me and Bevin has me all conflicted, as a center left voter.

I believe so, but I’m no constitutional scholar.

Odds are governor pardons are a state Constitution thing. For the President it would certainly take an Amendment. For a governor probably an Amendment for the given state’s Constitution.

Overall I don’t generally mind them but after Trump and Bevin I’m willing to be convinced that there needs to be some sort of stop-gap. The problem is that legislatures are slow. So lets say some dude gets pardoned. You can’t keep him in prison as a free man, but the legislature wants to contest the pardon. The legislature sets up a vote for next week (or month). Well… now we have a problem.

Pardons are for events in the past, they cannot be issued before a crime is committed.

Nobody has yet emptied a penitentiary on their way out, but on more than one occasion an outgoing governor commuted the sentence of everyone on death row.

Conflicted about what? Bevin is fascist human garbage.

The result. A lot of the pardons relate to first time drug offenders and such.

I’m not a fan of such powerful, unilateral action by a single person, but we are way over-incarcerated.

I see. The actual action is “let’s do as much harm as possible on the way out” (we can expect the same from Trump if he loses) but yet, in the process of trying to do harm he accidentally also did some good.

Personally, this particular action itself does not unequivocally reveal a motive.

4 years under Bevin made his motives crystal clear, I assure you.

Yeah what Trump might do in his final days in office is not a pretty thought.