What are Pardons good for?
December 23, 2002 9:38 PM   Subscribe

Tis the season to give pardons, fa la la la la la la President Bush decided to give out some pardons for the Christmas season. Pardons for crimes like stealing copper wire, altering an odometer, selling moonshine and not reporting for military induction in the 50s. These are small crimes, most occuring around 30 years ago (on average) with punishment of probation.

This brings up a question, thinking about the controversy over pardons by past Presidents and all that. "How should a President use his pardon power?"
posted by RobbieFal (10 comments total)
"Stephen James Jackson of Picayune, Miss. Sentenced to three years probation and fined $500 in 1993 for altering an odometer."
picayune. how apt.
posted by quonsar at 10:01 PM on December 23, 2002

There should be some sort of mechanism in place for purging peoples' records of convictions. Some people were not guilty, and they have exhausted their appeals. Other people have finished their sentences, reformed their lives, and are haunted by past convictions.

In my home state, there is a pardon board: The Governor, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General. There's no death penalty, so the petitioners are people with old convictions who can't get jobs or vote. Some of the cases are heartbreaking. If the president or governor or pardon board believes a person should be pardoned based on the facts of the case and not political influence, I'm all for it.
posted by subgenius at 10:10 PM on December 23, 2002

I read through the list just to make sure he didn't pardon anyone who made a website with a navbar in a frame.
posted by planetkyoto at 12:51 AM on December 24, 2002

Can the US president pardon German cannibals? What about if they are acting in the US national interest?
posted by troutfishing at 1:32 AM on December 24, 2002

The idea of the 'justice system' is punishment and reform.

Assumption: The person was guilty, and was not framed/wrongly convicted, etc la.

If you served the time, why should the punishment of 'having a felony' on your record continue? Your access to jobs, voting, gun ownership, and I'm not sure what else these days is restricted.

Take the modern example of breaking encryption so you can copy the program/media you bought. Or be willing to be arrested under the US PATRIOT act as part of a protest. Or you took pictures of where the VP is staying. These 'felonies' (because that is what they are...you know how dangerous it is to be copying what you bought or standing up to an unjust law or you want a scrapbook to hand off of the grandkids when you lived thru the 'start of the dark times') should have some way of being removed.

Punished for your actions, sure. But a lifetime of punishment because you chose to stand up for your rights? The punishment to continue even after the law that convicted you is overturned? How is that 'just'?
posted by rough ashlar at 4:37 AM on December 24, 2002

"How should a President use his pardon power?"

Certainly NOT to grant pardons to persons currently under indictment or who perhaps might testify against the pardoner (as in Poppy Bush and Iran-Contra figures.)
posted by nofundy at 4:42 AM on December 24, 2002

One wonders if after completing their prison sentences or probation, paying any fines, then going on to live exemplary lives, Kenneth Franklin Copley, Harlan Paul Dobas, Stephen James Jackson, Douglas Harley Rogers, Walter F. Schuerer, Paul Herman Wieser and Olgen Williams actually wanted this all dragged back up again for the whole nation to examine. Were they asked if they wanted token pardons?

I too thought the whole idea of the system was to pay your debt then move on. Anyway, why didn't he release Barabbas, we were all chanting for Barabbas :)
posted by DrDoberman at 6:34 AM on December 24, 2002

Thanks for the laugh DrDoberman! That was great! Barrabas indeed, from the occupying force.
posted by nofundy at 6:51 AM on December 24, 2002

Fwee Wodewick!
posted by Eekacat at 7:09 AM on December 24, 2002

Were they asked if they wanted token pardons?

I'm not sure exactly what's involved, but they seem to have asked for the pardons. From the CNN story:

Copley, now 61, served two years probation for his crime of making untaxed alcohol. He started working with an attorney four years ago to get the pardon but said he was about to give up when his lawyer called him over the weekend to tell him the news.


Dobas, 77, who now lives in Portland, Oregon, said he filed a petition for the pardon and filled out "lots and lots of paperwork" in September 2000. Dobas said he was pleased to receive the pardon but added that "it isn't going to really improve my life. I just wanted to see if it would work."
posted by Vidiot at 8:06 AM on December 24, 2002

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