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Clemency PDF Print E-mail

Since 1976, 229 death row inmates have been granted clemency for humanitarian reasons. Humanitarian reasons include doubts about the defendant's guilt or conclusions of the governor regarding the death penalty process.

Since 1976, there have been three broad grants of clemencies to death row inmates:

  • Gov. Toney Anaya in New Mexico in 1986 (all inmates)
  • Gov. Richard Celeste in Ohio in 1991(8 inmates)
  • Gov. George Ryan in Illinois in 2003 (all inmates). (See below.)

There were five notable instances of broad commutations prior to the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976:

  • Oklahoma Governor Lee Cruce commuted every death sentence imposed during his administration (1911-1915)
  • Oregon Governor Robert D. Holmes commuted every death sentence that arose during his term (1957-1959)
  • Governor Peabody of Massachusetts recommended the commutation of every death sentence (1962-1964)
  • In 1971, Governor Winthrop Rockefeller commuted all death sentences in Arkansas (Source: Cathleen Burnett, "Justice Denied," Northeastern University Press, 2002, p. 162).
  • In 1965, Governor Frank Clement commuted all the death sentences in Tennessee after the legislature defeated an abolition bill by a single vote. (Source: M. Gottschalk, "The Prison and the Gallows," Cambridge Press, 2006, p. 213).

Source: Death Penalty Information Center

The Atlantic magazine in 2005 published an article titled "The Texas Clemency Memos " by Alan Berlow. The magazine said that the the legal counsel to Texas Governor George W. Bush, Alberto R. Gonzales—later the White House counsel, and U.S. Attorney General —prepared fifty-seven confidential death-penalty memoranda for Bush's review. Never before discussed publicly, the memoranda suggest that Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise Bush of some of the most salient issues in the cases at hand.



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