Presidential/Gubernatorial Pardoning

How does pardoning work? Can you pardon a dead person, just as one of those “it’s the principle of the matter” deals? Can people protest or something to have somebody pardoned? For example, if a month or so ago, I wanted Clinton to pardon the Rosenbergs or somebody, could I have done anything to influence his opinion?

Yes, it is possible to pardon someone who has already died.
It is, purely, a symbolic gesture. (I suppose there may be a situation where a person was deprived of some benefits as a result of a crime and a pardon might allow the person’s survivors/heirs to petition or sue to recover the benefits that they never received. I do not know of any specific case where this would be true.)

Currently, there is a movement to secure a pardon for William Bonney/ Billy the Kid.

The current cynical answer to your last question would be to have shown up on his doorstep with a lot of cash.

That seems to have been the answer to alot of questions on dealing with Clinton :rolleyes:

Posthumous pardons have been given in Britain for people who have been proved to have been wrongly convicted and executed.

I am sure that this will happen in the USA when Americans develop the same revulsion for capital punishment that most of the rest of the ‘civilized’ or at least ‘Western’ world has accepted. At present such pardons would threaten the interests of the Judicial Killing Lobby. However, I understand that the Governor of Illinois is beginning to think along these lines.

Roll on the pardons!

I happened to hear a journalistic report (from a reporter of 60 years experience of American politics) on the radio over the weekend and found it painted a useful and valid account of the ‘Pardons privilege’ in the context of the present brouhaha.

This link provides the text of that broadcast should anyone be interested:

Pjen, careful with the judgmentalism there. The moratorium in Illinois isn’t based on morality but on practicality. The evidence was overwhelming that the death penalty had been given to a number of convicts who weren’t actually guilty of the crime they had been charged with, and Governor Ryan found himself forced to declare that he wouldn’t approve any more executions until the system had been fixed.

At no time was the basic morality of the death penalty part of the consideration, and I would venture to say that mainstream opinion in the US is in accordance with Ryan’s view - that it does have a place, but we have to be sure to get it right, since it can’t be reversed. There are numerous other threads on the subject, of course.

Now why would you think that someone properly convicted of murder et al. should be pardoned for it just because they were executed instead of rotting in jail? Pardons cover the conviction, not the sentence. Perhaps you’re thinking of commutations, while overlooking the sick humor there would be in commuting a death sentence after the fact.
Back to the OP, yes, pardons can be granted posthumously to clear someone’s name, if nothing else. Governor Dukakis of Massachusetts gave pardons to Sacco and Vanzetti for their state-level murder convictions decades after their death, long after the historical consensus emerged that they had really been convicted of being foreign and anarchists.

This is not strictly on-topic, but those interested in past pardons might find this Washington Post article interesting. My favorite incident:

“A convicted bank robber… escaped from federal prison and killed a police officer in Connecticut. The state sought to execute him, but the killer claimed this violated his constitutional rights and demanded to first serve out his 25-year federal term. So [Calvin] Coolidge commuted the prisoner’s federal sentence and Connecticut hanged him.”

Read my post again. I was talking of posthumous pardons for people who have been killed by the state following inadequate trial procedures. These pardons become far easier to give once judicial killing is abolished- until that time there is a political force ranged against the judicial reconsideration of incorrect verdicts resulting in the death penalty as this would throw doubt on current practice. Once killing people is no longer judicial practice, reconsiderations and pardons become more likely.

My point in Illinois is exactly what you say- a dawning realization that innocent people had been executed and were likely to be executed in the near future. A full consideration of cases in Illinois and elsewhere over the last twenty five years would probably uncover many cases of innocent people who had been executed; Governor Ryan’s actions essentially admit to this.

Many, many executions in the USA have been carried out on people who were found guilty, but denied a fair trial, denied adequate appeal procedures and denied clemency for political reasons. IIRC the Supreme Court has essentially said that even if major irregularities are uncovered in the trial and appeal and clemency processes, so long as the letter of the law is followed, an execution may proceed even if there is unconsidered evidence proving innocence (not sure of the cite, but will try to find it.)

It is no more ‘judgemental’ to condemn judicial killing now than it was to condemn slavery in 1850 or genocide in 1945 in Europe (or even between 1492 and 1900 in North America). For a supposedly Christian nation to ignore two basic tenets ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and ‘Turn the other cheek’ with such abandon saddens me, and sadness may make me sound judgemental.

Eventually I am sure that changes will occur that will lead to a reassessment of judicial killing which will necessitate pardons as in the OP.

Cites as promised above:

Coleman v. Thompson:

Herrara v. Collins:

Pjen, you’re continuing to mix moral arguments with simple administrative ones. Recognition that the system isn’t working as well as we’d like to think does not extend to a recognition that the death penalty is fundamentally immoral - but that’s the link you’re seeing.

You’re still apparently confused over the difference between pardons and commutations, not to mention dropping of charges. You’re asking for pardons for anyone executed for a crime they did not commit, when dropping the charge and vacating the sentence would be appropriate. A pardon implies that the person DID commit the act, but has redeemed himself otherwise or was charged and sentenced unfairly. Your argument would have more weight if it were kept clearer.

FYI, the US isn’t a “supposedly Christian nation” either, despite what you may hear from certain quarters. We practice religious tolerance, or at least preach it, and take the separation of church and state seriously.

Quote from:

“The Home Secretary has overall responsibility for the criminal justice system in England and Wales and for advising the Queen on the exercise of the royal prerogative of mercy to pardon a person convicted of a crime or to remit all or part of a penalty imposed by a court. The Home Secretary can also send a case back to the Court of Appeal if fresh evidence emerges after a conviction has been made.”

The Royal Pardon has been used for people convicted and executed, to avoid a lengthy legal process when it is obvious that errors have been made. A pardon in British Law does not necessarily mean that the person was guilty- it accepts that a judicial decision was made and then removes the conviction and its result. Your coment about ‘charged and sentenced unfairly’ admits this point.

The Presidential Pardon as laid down in the Constitution replicated the Royal Prerogative of Mercy on which Pardons are based. It is possible that US practice has deviated from English Common Law, but if you look at my original post you will see that it was English Law I quoted.

I admit that there are two arguments- moral and administrative- against Judicial Killing and adhere to both of them. this does not mean that they are necessarily confused. It is possible to believe either ‘Judicial Killing is Morally Wrong’ or ‘Judicial Killing has administrative Problems’ or both or neither. I happen to maintain both.

My comments about a ‘supposedly Christian nation’ (note- not a Christian State) are based on the fact that the US has a greater proportion of professing and church-going Christians than almost any other Nation. Given that the great majority of Americans would claim to be believing Christians, I find it sad that they continue to elect governments that support Judicial Killing, despite the fact that almost all major Christian Denominations outside of the US argue strongly against Capital Punishment.

The important part of the post however, is that questioning by investigation, appeals, pardons etc of the historic process of Judicial Killings, calls into question the whole process of those Killings and thus they tend to be avoided because they cause awkward questions to be asked. If and when Judicial Killing becomes less popular in the States, then some process of reassessment may be necessary and pardons or other posthumous vacating of sentence and verdict may be necessary- as I said in my original post.

If we accept that we disagree about Judicial Killings, and you read my original post again without the emotional load that this disagreement is causing, you will see that this is all that I was saying- ‘Pardons have been used in Britain posthumously and similar circumstances may come to prevail in the US in the fullness of time’.

[Moderator watch ON]

Cool it, Pjen. While you may be correct, in saying that it is proper to take measures to end the death sentence, it is nonetheless proper only in certain contexts. One such context is our Great Debates forum: If you want to discuss the morality of capital punishment there, be our guest. General Questions is not, however, the proper place for it. Please abide by the rules of the forum that you are in. This is an official warning.

I accept that the debate has drifted out of the context of the General Questions Forum and will cease to correspond on this topic here.

I have pointed out to Chronos that I resent the fact that it was I alone who was cited whereas a review of the posts between ElvisL1ves and myself shows that the origin of off-context subjects seem not to have been introduced by me.