Paris Hilton and Scooter Libby: What’s With this Pardon Business?
Posted on Jul 4, 2007 in Celebrity Justice, Legislation, National Issues
TMZ.COM has pointed out that Paris Hilton had to serve jail time, while Scooter Libby didn’t … and their post includes surveys showing that the American public believes both should have done their time. Over at Kavips, the comparison between Paris Hilton and Mr. Libby is also being made, with its big question being “if Libby got pardoned, why didn’t Paris?” FreeRepublic is throwing Li’l Kim into the mix: what about her jailtime (10 months, a $50,000 fine, and probation till 2009)?
Bill Totten points out that there’s a lot of humor to be found in the fact that Paris Hilton has done more time than Scooter Libby. For the more serious sorts, The Foxhole has one perspective, JoSwift has the other.
So, what’s a pardon anyway – who gives ’em, when, and why? If you’re in trouble, can you get one too?
A pardon is a release from punishment. An example of the actual, written document can be seen here, where Pres. Clinton pardoned his brother, Roger. (Libby’s document isn’t online yet.)
If someone has been convicted of federal charges, then the President of the United States has the right to grant executive clemency to the prisoner, which comes in the form of a pardon. If someone has been convicted of state charges, then the Governor of that State has the right to do the same. The highest member of the executive branch has the power to pardon within that jurisdictional system.
So, Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Governor of California, had the power to pardon Paris Hilton. Paris did ask him for one; he said no.
President Bush did have the power to pardon Li’l Kim, but it’s unclear that he was ever officially asked. From the CNN.COM reporting of Li’l Kim’s incarceration, it appears that a plea bargain was had: she served 1 year and 1 day (rather than risk the sentencing guidelines of 20 years), paid a big fine, and publicly announced that she had, indeed, lied to the grand jury and on the stand at trial.
Li’l Kim negotiated herself from 20 years down to 10 months actual jail time, which was very savvy plea bargaining — especially when dealing with those strict federal sentencing guidelines. Maybe asking for a presidential pardon was on her task list, if she hadn’t made this deal?
Do you, or a loved one, want to request a pardon? How do you get one?
You write a letter. Actually, lots of letters. Tennessee legislators are writing their state governor now, for example, asking for the pardon of a death row inmate.
Where do the letters go? Most states have a group of individuals who advise the governor about pardon requests. The Washington State Clemency and Pardons Board recently advised their governor on the pardon requests being made by lots of people on behalf of prisoner Barry Massey. Whether or not Massey got a pardon, however, remained Governor Gregoire’s sole decision.
What are your chances of getting a pardon? Not high. The Governor, or President, doesn’t exercise this power often, but lots of requests are made. So: the more letters, the better. The more media coverage, the better.
And, weighty equitable arguments regarding the pardon need to be included: for example, Barry Massey is serving life without parole for a murder he committed at the age of 13 (and psychologically assessed as mentally aged 9.9), and at that young age was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Sentenced to life at 13 is a powerful equitable argument: was this fair?
The Washington board recommended clemency for Massey. The Governor said no, but invited Massey (now 33) to ask again in three years’ time.
Perhaps in all this pardon discussion, Barry Massey’s situation should be thrown into the mix. Suddenly, Paris’s request and Libby’s pardon take on a new perspective, don’t they?�