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State Capitol News

Bipartisan Group Trying to Strip Governor of One of her Powers

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/knau/local-knau-947456.mp3

Phoenix, AZ – Right now members of the Board of Executive Clemency are
empowered to recommend a reduction in sentence to the governor
when there is a reason, like the mandatory term imposed is too
harsh, an inmate is close to dying or other reasons they find
appropriate. But it is the governor who always gets the last
word. And Mesa Republican Cecil Ash said that word, more often
than not, is 'no.' Ash proposes to leave the final decision to
the five-member board.

(The clemency board is capable making these determinations. It
takes the decision out of the political arena. Politicians have
to run for reelection. And sometimes their judgment is tainted by
the political considerations. I don't think that applies to the
members of the Board of Executive Clemency.)

Ash, an attorney and former public defender, said governors in
Arizona and elsewhere used to grant clemency on a fairly regular
basis.

(And then you had the problem with Dukakis and the Willie Horton
thing. And you have, I think Gov. Huckabee suffered some bad
press when this fellow up in Washington killed somebody that Gov.
Huckabee had let out.)

Dukakis, who was governor of Massachusetts, found his 1988
presidential campaign hobbled after it was revealed that Horton,
a convicted murderer, did not come back from a weekend furlough
and eventually killed someone else. Dukakis had helped continue
that program. Huckabee's problems related to a 2009 incident
involving a man identified as murdering four police officers in
the state of Washington. It turned out that, in 2000, Huckabee
commuted the man's 35-year prison term for armed robbery.

(I just think to add this political consideration to the decision
is something we should relieve the governor of that burden.)

Records show that Brewer, since taking office two years ago, has
granted 17 requests out of 25. That actually is a far better
ratio than her predecessor, Janet Napolitano, who over her six
years in office had 280 recommendations from the board for
clemency but granted just 41. The move is likely to get a fight
from prosecutors. For example, Maricopa County Attorney Bill
Montgomery said the current system works BECUASE the elected
official who makes that final call is accountable. Brewer herself
said the decision whether to grant clemency is a real
responsibility. But the governor said she wants to study the
issue further.

(It is certainly something that would take something off my
plate. But I think it has to be considered who is on the clemency
board and who is governor. So it'll be an interesting debate. I
really at this time prefer not to make any opinion whether I
support it or not support it.)

Even if the proposal gets legislative OK, that's not the last
word. As a constitutional amendment, it also must be approved at
the ballot. For Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.