Obama Issues Pardons and Commutations

President Obama issued 12 pardons and 8 sentence commutations today. Some of the commutations went to those serving life sentences under the old, unduly harsh crack cocaine guidelines.

The full list is here.

These are the first commutations under Obama's new clemency guidelines.

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    How does one get life imprisonment (none / 0) (#1)
    by Chuck0 on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 04:46:51 PM EST
    followed by period of "supervised release." Seems kinda dumb to me. If you're doing life, how does the "supervised release" part play out?

    and when... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Mr Natural on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 05:26:58 PM EST
    They aim a cam at your grave?

    Friends in high places? (none / 0) (#3)
    by CaptHowdy on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 05:30:45 PM EST
    or low ones

    It's a (none / 0) (#5)
    by lentinel on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 07:21:41 PM EST
    little like consecutive life terms....

    Looking (none / 0) (#4)
    by lentinel on Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 07:20:19 PM EST
    at the offenses for which these chosen individuals have received commutations or pardons - conspiracy to distribute cocaine, growing marijuana and filing a false tax return, I couldn't help but think that there are thousands of people in prison for those same offenses for whom there was no commutation or pardon.

    But it is a start.
    Obama is changing the dialogue, and it is welcome.

    Personally, I am for blanket commutations for these crimes.
    I mean, if a Dick Cheney is allowed to wander around on the loose...

    A relatively minor question - why do these commutations take place in mid-April? Or mid-June? Why not right away? Waiting those extra months must be torturous.

    Good points all, but (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by NYShooter on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 11:51:01 AM EST
    they just remind me of another issue that has never made sense to me.

    There have been times when a State, or, the Federal Government, after reviewing, and, changing a law, sometimes decrease, or, eliminate altogether, the prison sentence.

    So far, so good. But, why, in the name of gawd, do they, sometimes, refuse to make the penalty retroactive?

    How do you tell some poor schmuck, languishing his life away in some hellhole prison, "Yo, great news, the "crime" you committed that got you tossed in here is no longer a crime. If you had done it a couple of weeks later than when you did you'd be sitting home now eating dinner with your wife and kids......tough luck, Joe"  


    The legal answer (none / 0) (#7)
    by Reconstructionist on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 02:16:38 PM EST
     is basically that laws, including criminal statutes and the penalties proscribed therein are presumed to operate prospectively. Legislatures can, and sometimes do, expressly state the amendment shall have retroactive affect (but in this country only when penalties are reduced because of the ex post facto clauses in Article I, Sections 9 and 10).

      When the law is ambiguous, the courts will seek to divine legislative intent and determine whether the legislature intended for the law to apply retroactively,

       But, many states and the Feds have "saving statutes" which are general laws which provide (with some variation) :

     §109. Repeal of statutes as affecting existing liabilities

    The repeal of any statute shall not have the effect to release or extinguish any penalty, forfeiture, or liability incurred under such statute, unless the repealing Act shall so expressly provide, and such statute shall be treated as still remaining in force for the purpose of sustaining any proper action or prosecution for the enforcement of such penalty, forfeiture, or liability. ...


    That (none / 0) (#8)
    by lentinel on Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 06:01:25 PM EST
    is the legal answer.

    The question for me is why that is the current law?

    it does seem to be needlessly cruel.


    Politics, (none / 0) (#9)
    by Reconstructionist on Sat Dec 20, 2014 at 07:06:42 AM EST
      as I suspect you knew, is the short answer.

      I will note the last 2 rounds of amendments to the USSG that reduced offense levels for many drug offenses have been applied retroactively. The one that just took effect 11/1/14 (basically reducing the offense levels established in the drug table  by 2 across the board) is being applied now by sentencing courts. A huge number (most, but not all-- there are some complexities) of previously sentenced federal drug offenders will have their sentences reduced.

      Those who won't fall into 2 categories. 1 group had sentences where factors other than the drug table offense level set their sentencing ranges (e.g.,career offenders). The  other group is more troubling-- those who would, if the amendment was immediately applied,  be eligible for release prior to 11/1/15. It was decided no one will be released due to the amendment prior to that date.