The system of presidential clemency practiced for nearly two centuries no longer functions in practice in the federal system and in most states.
That is the dire conclusion of a bipartisan, expert panel convened Dec. 10 by the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC.
“President Obama has found only one prisoner worthy of release” in the first four years of his administration said longtime law professor Albert Alschuler, left. He presented statistics showing that previous presidents used their Constitution-based commutation powers far more often until recent years.
Alschuler, a colleague of Obama when the future president was a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School in the 1990s, said the president has denied 3,793 requests for reduction of sentence (a total recalculated shortly after his remarks). The sole grant, the professor said, was to a mother serving a long term on drug charges and suffering from a terminal disease. “Congressional action in 1984,” he continued, “left the U.S. for the first time in its history with no functioning mechanism for the release of prisoners prior to the expiration of their sentences.”
Concurring with him on the scope of the problem were former Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig, Republican former Maryland Gov. Robert “Bob” Erhlich, right, and former Justice Department Pardon Attorney Margaret Love, who held the post from 1990 to 1997 with overall responsibility for managing the department's clemency program.
Update: Huffington Post Live published a video interview Dec. 11 with Dana Siegelman, leader of a petition drive to obtain clemency for her father, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, once his state's leading Democrat. Massive irregularities in the federal corruption conviction of Siegelman have been documented many times by the Justice Integrity Project, CBS 60 Minutes, and others.
The interview, with links below, is the most thorough and up-to-date video so far on the internationally notorious prosecution. It features two prominent former Republican office-holders calling for presidential action to secure the defendant's freedom.