North Texas Daily

The Presidential pardon power needs more limits

The Presidential pardon power needs more limits

The Presidential pardon power needs more limits
March 17
13:31 2020

The presidential pardon offers convicted criminals a second chance to become productive members of society and make different choices. More importantly, pardons can be used to correct mistakes made by the judicial system and release people from sentences that don’t fit the crime.

When used incorrectly, the power of the pardon allows the president to release corrupt public figures and violent criminals back into society. To prevent further abuse of power we need to set limitations on the presidential pardon.

Currently, the pardon cannot be used in cases of impeachment which is the only limit set on it.

The Supreme Court decided in 1866 that the president’s pardon power “extends to every offense known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment.”

Apparently, the Supreme Court of 1866 didn’t expect a person like Donald Trump to become president.

President Trump’s most productive pardon was granted in 2018 to Alice Marie Johnson, whose case was brought to his attention by Kim Kardashian-West. Alice is a 64-year-old, great-grandmother who was serving a life sentence for non-violent drug charges. After spending 21 years in prison, she had her sentence commuted.

Since her commutation, Johnson has advocated for prison reform and helped other women gain clemency from the president. So far, the president has only pardoned five non-violent drug offenders.

Another productive pardon was posthumously granted to the first black boxing champion Jack Johnson who was convicted of violating the Mann Act in 1913.

Johnson was accused of kidnapping his white girlfriend, who he later married. Although she didn’t cooperate with authorities, an ex-girlfriend brought a case against him which led to his conviction by an all-white jury.

Although the president has granted a few productive pardons, the majority have been granted to corrupt political allies. Trump’s immorality doesn’t end there. He pardoned one convicted killer, Clint Lorrance, then he pardoned another man charged with murder, Matthew Golsteyn.

Trump’s most recent and controversial pardon commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich, the former Gov. of Illinois. Blagojevich was impeached for corruption and removed from office in 2009. Blagojevich is infamous for trying to sell an empty Senate seat that belonged to Barack Obama before he became President. His pardon is controversial because it involves impeachment, which is the only rule against pardoning a criminal.

By pardoning Blagojevich, the president sent the message that corruption isn’t a punishable offense under his administration. Trump’s decision displays a lack of care for the American people.

Two more corrupt political allies granted pardons by Trump are conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza and former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. D’Souza was convicted of violating campaign finance laws and Arpaio violated a court order which prohibited his officers from detaining people based on suspicions that they were in the country illegally.

Both D’Souza and Arpaio were part of the “birther movement” that falsely claimed Obama was not born in the United States. The decision to pardon D’Souza and Arpaio further shows how the Trump administration supports corruption instead of rebuking it.

Trump’s propagation of the birther conspiracy theory demonstrates a lack of credibility and his choice to support corrupt political allies indicates a lack of integrity.

Presidential standards were lowered when Trump took office. We can’t trust the president to act in our best interest because he instead consistently acts in his own self-interest.

Restrictions should be placed on who can be pardoned based on the crimes they committed and the details of the crime. If the criminal is associated with the president or the U.S. government, they should be barred from receiving a pardon.

Granting pardons to allies and friends is a conflict of interest. This behavior is similar to a police officer letting a criminal go because he knows them. Another restriction should apply to violent criminals because they are a physical threat to public safety.

Presidential pardons should only be granted to private citizens who have been wronged by the judicial system.  It is time to prevent future presidents from protecting corrupt political allies by limiting the pardon power.

Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell

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Shelby Stevens

Shelby Stevens

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