Why Pardons in Georgia Are Especially Hard to Get - The World News

Why Pardons in Georgia Are Especially Hard to Get

Donald J. Trump has raised the idea in the past that as president he could pardon himself from federal crimes. While no president has ever pardoned himself, there is little restriction on the presidential pardon authority laid out in the Constitution.

But in the Georgia case, Mr. Trump would have no such power if he is re-elected, because a president’s pardons apply only to federal crimes.

Beyond that, getting a pardon in Georgia is not just a matter of persuading a governor to grant clemency. People convicted of state crimes are eligible to apply for pardons only five years after they have started serving their sentences. Even then, it not the governor who decides but the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

And while criminals can ask the parole board to commute sentences right away, the board “will consider a commutation of a sentence imposed in other than death cases only when substantial evidence is submitted” showing “that the sentence is either excessive, illegal, unconstitutional or void” and that “such action would be in the best interests of society and the inmate.”

The board’s five members are appointed by the governor to seven-year terms, an effort to insulate them from political pressure.

Georgia set up its restrictive system after Gov. Eurith D. “Ed” Rivers was implicated in a cash-for-pardons scandal in the 1930s. Time magazine reported in 1941 that the governor’s chauffeur “frequently went to prison camps of Fulton County with pardons already signed and asked to see prisoners.” While charges were eventually dropped after Mr. Rivers was acquitted once and had two mistrials, a new pardon system was created in the wake of the scandal.

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