Monday, January 26, 2015

The Politics of Mercy: Is clemency still the third rail? We may find out.

...For decades, the conventional wisdom has been that clemency equals danger. Any governor who grants pardons or commutations to convicted felons invites political risk – with no potential benefit. In Massachusetts, Mitt Romney signed not a single pardon, a record he later touted.

But when Ehrlich was governor of Maryland from 2003 to 2007, he made clemency a priority, dedicating lawyers to screen requests and meeting monthly with senior aides to review applications.

In the end, Ehrlich granted clemency more than 200 times. And should he run for president, he plans to hold up that record as a signature achievement, arguing that it shows he is someone who leads instead of cowers.

“If you have this extraordinary power and fail to use it, the quality and quantity of justice in your jurisdiction suffers,” Ehrlich said in an interview. Sifting requests for mercy “is art, not science,” he said. “But we were extraordinarily careful. We devoted a lot of resources and time. This is not an easy thing. If it was easy, it would not be leadership, it would be politics.”


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