First and most basically, the process could be more clear and transparent. On the front end, applicants could be given better direction about the standard they are to meet. The application forms could be updated to allow people to better make their case. It is imperative for the state to publicize better data.
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Potential applicants should know that their request has a very small chance of getting approved only once every eight years, if that is to be the practice. Armed with this information, attorneys handling such cases would also be better able to represent current clients and advise potential ones.
The public has the right — and the responsibility — to know how constitutional powers are being exercised or not exercised. The Board of Parole itself is benefited by better monitoring and tracking its clemency caseload. By contrast, Georgia publishes the number of applications received and a detailed breakdown of the types of pardons granted that year. Perhaps more staff and resources should be allocated for clemency requests. Last year the seven-member board oversaw a whopping 16, hearings.
However, actual board members conducted only 5 percent of those hearings for the most serious cases. By contrast, clemency applications are apparently sent directly to board members after processing. Currently, staff members only compile additional information if a hearing has already been granted.
Timing guidelines would facilitate prompt consideration of applications. The data I received does not indicate how quickly the board makes decisions to deny an application or to conduct a hearing. There may also be legal problems with the way Tennessee reviews clemency requests.
This means that the board has unilaterally denied 98 percent of all applications without the governors even having the opportunity to see them. Thus, apparently all applications should be sent to the governor, even if most have unfavorable recommendations. An interested public or media could put more pressure on our governors to grant clemency more often throughout their time in office.
While we sometimes see stories and petitions shortly before a scheduled execution, interest is virtually nonexistent for less-urgent pardon requests. A more drastic remedy would be to eliminate the governor from the clemency process altogether, thereby divorcing what perhaps should be an apolitical process from our chief politician. Just as the Board of Parole makes recommendations on applications as they are received, so could the board grant them without waiting on an artificial eight-year cycle.
Several states have implemented such changes. While such modification in Tennessee would also require a constitutional amendment, this question is worthy of discussion. An improved judicial system may have reduced the historical justifications of clemency to second-guess the determinations of guilt and an appropriate sentence upon conviction. But our courts do not have a mechanism to decide whether a punishment remains just and appropriate years later.
By providing relief otherwise unavailable through the judiciary, clemency remains an important and essential part of our justice system and the constitutional framework of checks and balances. We should reevaluate how clemency is granted in Tennessee to ensure that it is continuing to satisfy these purposes.
He practices primarily criminal defense law, as well as appellate, civil rights and general civil litigation. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Raybin would like to acknowledge the Tennessee Board of Parole for agreeing to compile the clemency data central to this article. Skip to Main Content Area. Commutations reduce a sentence currently in effect, such as incarceration to parole or a death sentence to life in prison.
Commutation Instructions | PARDON | Department of Justice
Exonerations are adjudications that a person is actually innocent of a convicted offense. Required before person can be compensated for wrongful imprisonment. Commentary No discussion on Tennessee executive clemency is complete without mention of the Ray Blanton pardon scandal. Suggestions There are several options available to strike a better balance. Conclusion An improved judicial system may have reduced the historical justifications of clemency to second-guess the determinations of guilt and an appropriate sentence upon conviction.
This power is codified at Tenn. A written list of the names of applicants receiving hearings is also sent to standing committees of the General Assembly as well as the District Attorney General in the district of conviction.
Board of Parole, Annual Report , p. I received the data in November , so it is current only though that time. Although I expect more applications have been received and referred to the governor between that time and publication of this article, I have found no evidence of any grants by the governor.
Sundquist did not follow this practice. My request of data beginning in the year included the final three years of his governorship, which reflected one grant of clemency in , four in , and six in I have not discussed his clemency practices further in this article because I do not have data from earlier in his term. My office handled three exoneration hearings during the Bredesen administration. The pardon application form provides: Blanchard , S.
Blanton and his administration on Nov.
See Keel Hunt, Coup: The Trials of Lawyer James E. Times , April 14, Love, 27 Fordham Urb. Collins , U. The special assessment is not considered to be a fine, and should not be included in describing any fine that might have been imposed upon you. If you are seeking reduction of a period of probation, supervised release, or special parole, you should state that fact specifically on the form and set forth the particular reasons why this portion of your sentence should be reduced, including the reasons why you believe serving probation, supervised release, or special parole would be an unusual hardship for you.
In general, applicants seeking commutation of probation, supervised release, or special parole should exhaust the available remedies in the sentencing court or in the U.
Pardon me: a guide to federal clemency
Parole Commission prior to applying for relief from the President, through this office. If you have not exhausted these remedies, you must explain why requesting the sentencing court or the U.
Parole Commission to grant early termination of a term of supervision, pursuant to 18 U. When applying for such relief, and in addition to submitting a petition for commutation of sentence, you are also required to submit an authorization of release of information form so that our office may obtain relevant documentation of the conviction from the United States Probation Office in the district of conviction.
If you are not a citizen of the United States, you should be aware that commutation of your sentence only shortens the prison sentence and will not result in a change of your immigration status. A full pardon is the only form of executive clemency that might affect a person's immigration status; however, as noted in paragraph 3 above, a person who is currently serving a prison term is not eligible to apply for that form of relief.
Accordingly, if a detainer has been lodged against you for deportation or removal, commutation of sentence, if granted, will not prevent your deportation or removal from the United States and may actually hasten the process. You may wish to contact U. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security, which is the agency responsible for decisions regarding a person's immigration status, to determine whether any other relief from deportation or removal is available to you.
In response to question 6, you must disclose all additional arrests or charges by any civilian or military law enforcement authority, including any federal, state, local, or foreign authority, whether they occurred before or after the offense for which you are seeking commutation. Your answer should list every violation, including traffic violations that resulted in an arrest or criminal charge, such as driving under the influence. You should also include all convictions, including convictions that may have been expunged, whether or not they were counted in computing your criminal history category under the Sentencing Guidelines.
Your failure to disclose any arrest, whether or not it resulted in a conviction, and every conviction may be considered a false statement. The failure to fully and accurately complete the application form may be construed as a falsification of the petition, which may provide a reason for denying your petition.
The power to commute a sentence for a federal offense is vested in the President alone. It is an extraordinary remedy that is very rarely granted. No hearing is held on the commutation application by either the Department of Justice or the White House. You will be notified when a final decision is made on your petition, and there is no appeal from the President's decision to deny a clemency request. The Office of the Pardon Attorney does not disclose information regarding the nature or results of any investigation that may have been undertaken in a particular case, or the exact point in the clemency process at which a particular petition is pending at a given time.
As a matter of well-established policy, the specific reasons for the President's decision to grant or deny a petition are generally not disclosed by either the White House or the Department of Justice. In addition, documents reflecting deliberative communications pertaining to presidential decision-making, such as the Department's recommendation to the President in a clemency matter, are confidential and not available under the Freedom of Information Act.
If your petition is denied, you may reapply one year after the date of denial. If you are seeking remission of restitution or fine, you should state that fact specifically on the application and set forth the particular reasons why you believe that this portion of your sentence should be reduced, including the reasons why you believe that paying your restitution or fine would present an unusual hardship for you. Furthermore, we require that you complete and submit, with your application, the Financial Statement of Debtor Form. Submit the petition to the Office of the Pardon Attorney All petitions for commutation of sentence should be forwarded to the Office of the Pardon Attorney , U.
Federal convictions only Under the Constitution, the President has the authority to commute sentences for federal criminal convictions, which are those adjudicated in the United States District Courts. Reduction of sentence only The President's clemency power includes the authority to commute, or reduce, a sentence imposed upon conviction of a federal offense, including the authority to remit, or reduce, the amount of a fine or restitution order that has not already been paid.