Skip to comments.President's Power of Pardon
Posted on 11/04/2012 3:51:37 AM PST by Kaslin
President Bill Clinton used his presidential pardon power in July 2000 to commute the sentence of Serena Nunn, who was sentenced to 15 years for a first-time nonviolent drug offense when she was 19. The pardon shaved three years off Nunn's sentence. Nunn told me over the phone, "I thought then that it was a great thing that a president used his power to help an average person."
Nunn later graduated from college and then the University of Michigan Law School. Last month, having passed a character fitness test, Nunn passed the Georgia bar. On Monday, she will be sworn in as an attorney.
How can a convicted felon become an attorney? The answer is not that Nunn wasn't guilty. She broke the law. She admits it. She knows she deserved some punishment.
But 15 years? That hard time was a function of a federal mandatory minimum system that overly punishes women who foolishly refuse to testify against their drug dealer boyfriends. "If mandatory minimum sentencing did not exist, no judge in America, including me, would have ever sentenced Ms. Nunn to 15 years in prison based on her role in the conspiracy, her age and the fact that she had no prior criminal convictions before the instant offense," sentencing Judge David Doty later wrote to Clinton.
Nunn's luck changed when Families Against Mandatory Minimums publicized her plight. In 1997, right-leaning lawyer Sam Sheldon read about Nunn in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and was outraged. He took on her case pro bono and then proceeded to hector prosecutors and local politicians in his bid to win Nunn a presidential commutation.
Sheldon, who works for the Justice Department, later became a federal prosecutor. He and his family will be there to watch Nunn take the oath.
Nunn knows that she is blessed. She has seen others leave prison only to face a "permanent punishment," of doors slammed when ex-convicts looked for work or social acceptance.
But she had the Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Sheldon, a pass from prominent politicians and a great-grandmother who told her, "You outlive it."
"She meant," Nunn said, "that when you let your good outdo your bad, then you've outlived it. You can be remembered for something better than your mistake."
Nunn has applied for a presidential pardon, which would erase her conviction. "I'll never be able to wipe away what I did and the fact that I went to prison," said Nunn, "but I can do the best that I can when I go forward."
During our talk, Nunn never brought up the subject of race. She is black, like so many other victims of the federal system's oversize boot.
Despite his erstwhile criticism of federal mandatory minimums, America's first black president may be of little to no help to her. I thought President George W. Bush was stingy with the pardon power, but Bush did issue two commutations in his first term, 11 total, as well as a total of 189 pardons. The Bush record beats Barack Obama's one commutation and 22 pardons.
Maybe Obama will be better after the election, some hope, when, win or lose, he could commute sentences without fear of alienating voters.
Political science professor P.S. Ruckman expects only "the usual tinkling of December pardons." If, however, Obama does issue a spate of commutations, expect some crony clemency, like Clinton's out-the-door pardon of well-connected rich fugitive Marc Rich.
Mitt Romney is "no big ball of hope," either, Ruckman said of the other guy. As Massachusetts governor, Romney granted none of the 15 pardon or three commutation recommendations sent from his parole board.
Conventional wisdom holds that there is no political upside to granting pardons and commutations. In the end, however, presidents often find some mercy for their pals. The question is whether they can spare a shot at a second chance for the average unconnected offender.
I’m sure everyone in Gitmo would be on his list.
Oh geez I forgot about this. The Kenyan is probably going to pardon as many Jihadists as he can and then blame it on Bush.
They will have to ramp up the bureau of engraving and printing to put together the paperwork for the pardons needed for those in his administration and his cronies on his subsidy lists.
... so we will, just because it might be useful to bash something.
She is black, like so many other victims of the federal system's oversize boot.
There - see how that works?
If you have lived clean for a certain period of time your rights should be restored. Even if you are a felon.
Federal drug laws are unconstitutional, period, FReepers supporting them and thereby giving the left cover to abuse the *Interstate* Commerce Clause for regulating everything notwithstanding.
If I were President, I would declare the drug laws as such and pardon all federal simple drug offenses. That’s almost as good as the Supremne Court doing so.
the article doesnt talk about clinton pardoning marc rich,a shyster that lives in switzerland and avoided us prosecution until his wife paid for the clinton library. and of course, she’s from new york,as if you couldnt guess.
Not only that but in the 3 months AFTER he loses the election, he will rack up the most pardons in history (including pardoning himself). Since he is NOT a qualified President under the articles of the US Constitution's requirement of citizenship, his EOs as well as all pardons (including his) will be null and void.
I don't expect impeachment will happen during the lame duck secession but I DO expect he will be brought before a court of law after he leaves office and the DOJ under President Romney will rule the imposter-in-chief guilty of high treason. Even if we don't win a majority in the senate, the crime will be so HUGE everything (especially Obamacare) will be struck down.
Folks, this is going to be historic to say the least.
My first Obama pardon prediction that will piss alot of people off:
Aren’t the prisoners at Gitmo military prisoners and not subject to the legal system and pardon?
Only a military officer can make the release.
No,no,no,no,no...a million times *no*! Not for adults,certainly.For a kid who commits a *minor* crime,maybe.But otherwise...NO!!!!!
A felon allowed to become a lawyer? And lawyers wonder why they’re so deeply despised by the American people.
Or the Secretary of the Navy...the Secretary of Defense...or,well you know.Also,there's a Federal appeals court that deals exclusively with the military (can't recall its name)...I'll bet *they* have the authority as well.
I don’t think the president can pardon someone convicted by a state court.
I really hope you are right!
It will be someone that has a huge following with the hippie, liberal college professor/student crowd.
Change my prediction to: Leonard Peltier
That’s right - no pardon for Mumia except from the Gov of Pennsylvania.
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