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Virginia Governor Grants Full Pardons to the “Norfolk Four”

By Christopher Zoukis Four former U.S. Navy veterans wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of an 18-year-old woman have been granted full pardons by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Eric Wilson, Danial Williams, Derek Tice and Joseph Dick, Jr., known as the “Norfolk Four,” were arrested for raping and killing Michelle Moore-Bosko in 1997. Based

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Federal Clemency Initiative Granting Relief At Slow Pace

The Obama administration’s “Clemency Initiative 2014,” a highly-touted program designed to grant clemency to non-violent offenders and other federal prisoners, has yet to make a substantial impact on the exploding federal prison population. While some 16 percent of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ 218,000 prisoners have applied for clemency, less than three dozen prisoners have

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Last Act in Office – Maryland Governor Commutes Four Death Row Prisoners

By Christopher Zoukis In a highly controversial decision, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D) commutes the sentences of four death-row prisoners to spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole. An opponent of the death penalty, O’Malley has been fighting to abolish the death penalty for years. “In my judgment, leaving

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Obama Issues 61 Commutations, As Critics Assail Clemency Pace

On March 30, President Obama commuted the prison sentences of 61 federal prisoners – over a third of whom were serving life sentences, for drug or firearms offenses. After a White House event highlighting the clemency action, the president invited ex-inmates whose sentences had previously been commuted to join him for lunch at a local

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We need to “Ban the Box”

Stephanie George is serving as a stark reminder that despite recent prison reform announcements, we cannot be complacent, that the struggle for re-integration does not end outside prison walls. George had been given a life sentence for “letting her former boyfriend keep drugs in their Florida home,” and assisted in his facilitation of dealings. While

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Seventh Circuit Suggests Clemency

The Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), mandates sentence enhancements for certain federal defendants who commit crimes with firearms; those who have three or more prior “violent felonies” or “serious” drug offenses face a minimum 15-year prison term. In some cases, however, prior state convictions should not quality as “predicate” offenses for

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Department of Justice Announces New Standards for Initiative on Executive Clemency

By Christopher Zoukis / BlogCritics.org

On April 23, 2014, Attorney General of the United States, Eric H. Holder, Jr. announced a new initiative intended to encourage appropriate candidates to petition for executive clemency from the President of the United States.

The initiative comes amid public statements by Holder and other top federal officials suggesting President Barrack H. Obama may eventually issue hundreds, if not thousands, of commutations to federal prisoners, mostly for non-violent drug offenders sentenced under now mostly discarded sentencing policies that affected a disproportionate number of minorities.

The April 23, 2014 announcement has prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ), through the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to set forth specific standards for the new initiative, and announces the formation of the Clemency Project 2014, a consortium of defense attorneys and non-profit organizations who have volunteered to assist some candidates for clemency advance their petitions.

The Criteria for Clemency

While the Constitution accords the President the authority to bestow clemency on anyone, the 2014 initiative is targeted at clemency for a specific profile of offenders.  According to a Federal Bureau of Prisons announcement made on May 5, 2014, it invites petitions from “non-violent federal inmates who would not pose a threat to public safety if released.”  The announcement stated that the initiative is limited to inmates who:

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