An exciting new article from ProPublica reporter Dafna Linzer reveals that the Obama administration is now responding to serious and disturbing claims of misconduct by the Office of the Pardon Attorney, which reviews and advises the president on commutation and pardon requests from federal prisoners. FAMM is cautiously optimistic about this development -- read our full response here.
The Obama administration has asked for a fresh review of an Alabama federal inmate's commutation request and directed the Justice Department to conduct its first ever in-depth analysis of recommendations for presidential pardons, according to several officials and individuals involved.Additionally, people who received commutations from Presidents Clinton and Bush asked the Obama Administration to grant more commutations and investigate the pardon attorney's office.
The Office of Pardon Attorney has been at the center of growing controversy since December, when stories published by ProPublica and The Washington Post revealed a racial disparity in pardons. White applicants were four times more likely to receive presidential mercy than minorities. African Americans had the least chance of success.
A subsequent story published in May recounted the saga of Clarence Aaron, a first-time offender sentenced in 1993 to three life terms in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy. In 2008, the pardon attorney recommended that President George W. Bush deny Aaron's request for a commutation even though his application had the support of the prosecutor's office that tried him and the judge who sentenced him. The pardon attorney, Ronald L. Rodgers, did not fully disclose that information to the White House.
The handling of Aaron's case prompted widespread criticism that the pardon office-- which has rejected applications at an unprecedented pace under Rodgers--is not giving clemency requests proper consideration.
Aaron filed a new commutation request in 2010, which is pending. In the past two months, his cause has been taken up by members of Congress, law professors and prominent civil rights advocates, many of whom have called for a broader investigation of the pardon process.
- Clarence Aaron's request will be reevaluated by the pardon attorney
- Current Pardon Attorney Ronald Rodgers will not be involved in that review, and
- The Bureau of Justice has been asked to "contract with an independent firm to conduct [a] pardons study" to get at the roots of that disturbing racial disparity.