Begging His Pardon
Five days (including today) remain in 2012. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in the North Country (presumably on a ski vacation with his family).
That doesn’t leave the governor much time if he’s planning on issuing any pardons or clemencies this year.
If he does not, it will be the second year in a row that Cuomo has opted not to use his gubernatorial power to issue reprieves to incarcerated New Yorkers.
The week before Christmas, I sent an email to Cuomo’s press office inquiring if this would be the year the governor broke his streak. I never received a response.
Once upon a time – back in the days after his failed 2002 race for governor and his successful comeback run for state attorney general in 2006 – Cuomo was an outspoken advocate for reform of the state’s strict drug laws.
The most draconian elements of those laws (life sentences for the highest level, Class A, drug officers, have since been dropped, thanks to former Republican Gov. George Pataki) and some additional changes for lower level offenders, who make up the highest percentage of prisoners doing time on drug charges, were enacted under former Democratic Gov. David Paterson.
But there are still plenty of people doing time on drug charges. Yet Cuomo has so far not seen fit to pardon any of them.
Governors have traditionally announced pardons around the holiday season, although there is no requirement for them to do so, and some have chosen not to.
Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, for example, issued just a single pardon during his brief stint in office.
Over the years, gubernatorial pardoning seemed to have fallen out of favor.
In a Boxing Day email comparing Cuomo to The Grinch, drug law reform/prisoners rights advocate Randy Credico noted Gov. Al Smith granted 92 pardons and 79 commutations of sentences in 1924.
The state prison population was less than 5,000 at the time. (It’s about 55,500 now, down from roughly 67,100 in 2002).
Gov. Hugh Carey granted 155 pardons and commutations during his two terms. His successor, Mario Cuomo, commuted the sentences of 37 people during three four-year terms in office.
Pataki commuted the sentences of 32 prisoners and granted one pardon – posthumously – to the comedian Lenny Bruce.
Paterson revived the practice, pardoning 24 people on Christmas Eve 2010 – the year before Cuomo took office.
Most of those pardons focused on immigrants here on work permits who were unable to apply for citizenship because they had been convicted of criminal offenses.
Paterson set up a special panel that reviewed over 1,000 cases, many of which were still open when Cuomo succeeded Paterson in January 2011.
Also in 2010, Paterson issued a controversial commutation to John White, an African-American man who was convicted of manslaughter in the 2006 shooting of a white teenager, Daniel “Dano” Cicciaro Jr.
The first pardon Paterson granted took place soon after he took office back in 2008.
It went to hip-hop artist Ricky “Slick Rick” Walters, who was convicted of attempted murder in 1991, released from prison in 1997, and was in danger of being deported to Britain, where he was born and raised until the age of 11.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on December 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm, and is filed under Andrew Cuomo, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|