President George W. Bush, on January 19th - his last full day in office - formally struck down the petitions for clemency of some high-profile politicians and businessmen, including convicted lawmakers Randall "Duke'' Cunningham, Edwin Edwards and Mario Biaggi and "junk bond" financier Michael Milken, the Justice Department said today.
Bush also denied one of the longest-standing petitions for clemency: for Leonard Peltier. Leonard's application had been under consideration since 1993.
Last year, we asked Sir Bob Geldof (musician, organizer of LifeAid and Life 8, and one of the signatories of the IPF "VIP" petition) if he would be willing to speak with President Bush about Leonard's case. Bob Geldof traveled to the G8 Summit in Tokyo (July 2008) and was able to briefly speak with Bush and handed a letter to the president's Counsel. In the letter Sir Geldof pleaded to grant Leonard executive clemency.
On December 12th, 2008, Michael Kuzma, attorney for Leonard Peltier, received a letter from Fred F. Fielding, another Counsel to the President, in which he wrote:
- "I am writing to thank you for your recent letter requesting an update on Mr. Leonard Peltier's petition for a commutation of his sentence. His petition is under review, and please be assured that Mr. Bob Geldof's views on this matter will be seriously considered." [emphasis added by IPF]
Not that I personally ever believed that Bush would consider granting clemency. But instead of rejecting / denying the petition, Bush could have done the same thing Clinton did: nothing. Because such a denial is a serious setback for those intent on clemency. After a denial a petitioner must wait two years to re-apply for a pardon and one year for a commutation of a prison sentence. (the latter in Leonard's case)
Petitioners can also circumvent the Justice Department and appeal directly to the White House whenever they want. See more below...
The Justice Department declined to comment on any details of the cases. The White House had no comment, before the inauguration on who might be granted clemency, or why.
The pardon power was created to allow the President to redress injustices that the judicial system is unable to remedy or for other reasons, such as Jimmy Carter's pardon of Vietnam-era draft resisters in an effort to restore domestic tranquility.
The Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney traditionally issues a formal recommendation based on a thorough investigation of the applicant and the case. But over the past two decades, more and more applicants have gone directly to the White House, citing a huge backlog of cases at the Justice Department.
In the end, the President alone has the ultimate power to grant or deny pardons or keep them alive.
Some of those denied by Bush had been considered likely candidates for some kind of clemency, in part due to the length of the prison terms, their contributions to society and their extensive lobbying campaigns. We, supporters of Leonard Peltier have waged a decades-long campaign to free him. He is a political prisoner; he never received a fair trial; there is sufficient evidence of his innocence.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
The President and only the President has the power to grant clemency. It is a power given to the President by the U.S. Constitution with no conditions attached.
Call President Obama to express your outrage and concern, and ask him to pardon Leonard now at 202-456-1111 (White House comment line: don't push any buttons, and a real person will answer your call)
E-mail President Obama to express your outrage and concern, and ask him to pardon Leonard now at www.whitehouse.gov/contact/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org or use or online petition form at http://users.skynet.be/kola/lppet.htm (this petition form is sent directly to the White House!)
Write to President Obama to express your outrage and concern, and ask him to grant executive clemency to / a commutation of sentence for Leonard Peltier now.
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington D.C. 20500
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