Saturday, July 07, 2007

FLIP-FLOP: Bubble Boy Has Big Heart for Big Buddies, Black Heart for All the Rest



Mostly FLOP.

Via the New York Times:

Until he commuted the 30-month prison sentence of I. Lewis Libby Jr. on Monday, President Bush had said almost nothing about his philosophy in granting clemency while at the White House.

As governor of Texas, though, Mr. Bush discussed and applied a consistent and narrow standard when deciding whether to issue pardons and commutations. And that standard appears to be at odds with his decision in the Libby case.

Mr. Bush explained his clemency philosophy in Texas in his 1999 memoir, “A Charge to Keep.”

“In every case,” he wrote, “I would ask: Is there any doubt about this individual’s guilt or innocence? And, have the courts had ample opportunity to review all the legal issues in this case?”

FIn Mr. Libby’s case, Mr. Bush expressed no doubts about his guilt. He said he respected the jury’s verdict, and he did not pardon Mr. Libby, leaving him a convicted felon. And Mr. Bush acted before the courts had completed their review of his appeal.

“As governor, Bush essentially viewed the clemency power as limited to cases of demonstrable actual innocence,” said Jordan M. Steiker, a law professor at the University of Texas who has represented death-row inmates.

“The exercise of the commutation power in Libby,” Professor Steiker continued, “represents a dramatic shift from his attitude toward clemency in Texas, and it is entirely inconsistent with his longstanding, very limited approach.”

In the six years that George W. Bush was governor of Texas, a state that executes more people than any other, he commuted a single death sentence and allowed 152 executions to go forward. He also pardoned 20 people charged with lesser crimes, said Maria Ramirez, the state’s clemency administrator. That was fewer than any Texas governor since the 1940s.

As president, Mr. Bush has commuted three sentences in addition to Mr. Libby’s and denied more than 4,000 requests, said Margaret Colgate Love, the pardon lawyer at the Justice Department for most of the 1990s. He has also issued 113 pardons and denied more than 1,000 requests. “His grant rate is very low compared to other presidents’,” she said.

In commuting Mr. Libby’s sentence, Mr. Bush said he had found it excessive. If Mr. Bush employed a similar calculus in Texas capital cases, he did not say so. Even in cases involving juvenile offenders and mentally retarded people, Mr. Bush allowed executions to proceed, saying that he was satisfied of the inmates’ guilt and that they had received a fair hearing.

The United States Supreme Court has since barred the execution of juvenile offenders and mentally retarded people as a violation of the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.



“The grounds he offered for commuting Libby’s sentence were equity — that the sentence was out of line with other sentences — or compassion,” Professor Sarat said. “Those two grounds seem so out of character with anything Bush had ever said or done in the area of clemency that it’s as if he has become a different person.”

Mostly flop.

Full story here.

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