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Kulongoski Grants Clemency To 15 January 14, 2011

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Before he left the governorship Monday, Ted Kulongoski pardoned 13 people and commuted the sentences of two others — both younger than age 18 when they committed their crimes — during his final two years in office.

According to a report Kulongoski filed with the Legislature, and made public this week, six of those pardons and one commutation came during his final three weeks in office.

Under the Oregon Constitution, a governor has nearly unlimited authority to issue pardons and commutations — except in cases of treason — but must report his actions to the Legislature every two years. Neither the Legislature nor the courts can reverse them. It’s similar to the president’s power under the U.S. Constitution.

A pardon erases a conviction; a commutation does not, although it suspends a sentence with specified conditions.

In the report, Kulongoski said he granted 13 of 162 requests for pardons and just two of 158 applications for commutations during the past two years. One other application is pending; presumably the decision will be up to Gov. John Kitzhaber, who succeeded Kulongoski on Monday.

At his final meeting with reporters as governor last week, Kulongoski talked about his process of considering clemency and about one specific case.

Although he did not name the individual during the news conference, Kulongoski said one man convicted of a robbery 38 years ago would have been forced out of his home of 22 years — or he and his wife would have had to shut down the adult foster care home they have operated for 16 years — without a pardon.

Since he was released on parole in 1979, Michael Owen McQueen attended community college, trained as a welder and has been employed by the same business for 26 years. His robbery conviction occurred before 1994, when voters approved mandatory minimum prison sentences for specified violent crimes under Measure 11.

The Department of Human Services used to have authority to issue waivers in such situations, based on the full circumstances and the age of the conviction. But a 2009 law disqualified McQueen from continuing to live in his home while he and his wife operate an adult foster-care home.




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