A brief look at historic clemencies demonstrates that granting executives the power to overrule juries and the criminal justice system means spitting in the eye of the American people:
President Gerald Ford pardons former President Richard Nixon. On Sept. 8, 1974, just one month after Nixon's resignation from the presidency, Ford proclaimed that a trial would "cause prolonged and divisive debate over the propriety of exposing to further punishment and degradation a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty of relinquishing the highest elective office of the United States." Would Nixon have received a pardon had he not been president? Would President Jimmy Carter have considered granting Nixon a pardon? To answer no means admitting an inherent inequity in our justice system.
President William Jefferson Clinton pardons Marc Rich. Just before his exit from office, Clinton pardoned Rich, whose ex-wife was a high-ranking Democratic Party fundraiser who had donated large sums to Sen. Hillary Clinton's election campaign during the 2000 cycle. Even then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle questioned the pardon, calling it "inappropriate."
Gov. Mark Warner (D-Va.) commutes the death sentence of convicted murderer Robin Lovitt. Lovitt, who stabbed Clayton Dicks to death with a scissors in 1988, saw his death sentence become a life sentence after Warner, who has presidential aspirations, sought to avoid rubberstamping the 1,000th execution in the United States since the re-institution of the death penalty in 1977. Were Lovitt number 999, he would likely be dead right now. Were he innocent, Warner should have pardoned him, not commuted his sentence.
Our justice system is not infallible. Juries sometimes err (see Simpson, O.J.). Evidence is sometimes lost. Undoubtedly, once in a blue moon, our appellate system grants sanction to sentences for the wrongfully convicted. But the answer is not granting one person -- one very politically motivated person -- the power to abrogate the law.
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