The presidential pardon is a rite of passage for vacating commanders in chief who are ready to end their administrations. They are the source of much speculation and Monday morning quarterbacking after the fact. In addition to having the power to pardon a person, which essentially vacates the conviction altogether, the president also has the power of commuting a sentence, which sets a person who is serving time free, but does not eradicate the conviction.
Although presidents may pardon applicants at any time, it is toward the end of an administration and change in power that a flurry of activity seeks reprieves for some of the more controversial characters a sitting president might – for political reasons – prefer not to consider.
Border patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean – their cases have been commented on extensively by Associated Content’s own Tony Vega and Shanika – finally received the attention of the presidential pardon pen, and WorldNet Daily reports that their sentences have been commuted, freeing them from prison life as of 03-20-09.
While it goes without saying that both former border agents broke the law, the fact that certain potentially exonerating facts were intentionally withhold during the trial did not sit well with the jury and the general public in the aftermath of the trial.
The presidential pardon is not without its ramifications, and much criticism is heaped on the shoulders of presidents for their choices of pardon grants. For example, Gerald Ford was heavily criticized for pardoning Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate Scandal. Voters were displeased at not being able to receive an official righting of the wrongs done by Nixon and his Administration.
Bill Clinton made no friends when he commuted the sentences of 16 members belonging to Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional, an organization that was found to be responsible for 120 bombings in the United States. He cited as a reason that the 19 years the accused had already served were beyond what was customary in the United States, but refused to explain other reasons.
Possibly the most contentious Bush pardon – thus far – is the partial commuting of Lewis Libby’s verdict by ending his stint in prison, but leaving other penalties intact. The Grant of Clemency showcases that the fines imposed were kept in effect. It is interesting to speculate which requests for pardons and commutations President Obama will entertain.
Sources: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1397755/doj_reviews_commutation_for_ramos_and.html; http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/77239/border_patrol_agents_imprisoned_for.html; http://www.worldnetdaily.com/?pageId=86533; http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/07/20070702-4.html