Defending the Politics of Clemency

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2002


Typically, the process of carrying out a death sentence is viewed almost entirely through the lens of the judiciary. ... By the time a death row inmate reaches the clemency process she or he has already been through all the due process of trials, appeals, and collateral attacks on the sentence of death. ... Indeed, governors (and now presidents) are regularly asked either to pardon death row inmates, or at a minimum commute their individual sentences. ... As straightforward as the definition may appear, the administration of executive clemency is anything but, and the consequences of its often arbitrary nature have opponents of capital punishment growing increasingly concerned. ... Less than twenty-four hours after the clemency petition was presented, Governor Gilmore commuted Calvin Swann's death sentence. ... There is little doubt that the political environment often prevents grants of executive clemency, and that the correlation between the public's staunch support of capital punishment and the increased pressure on political officials to adhere to the will of that public has resulted in a sharp decline in clemency over the last quarter century. ... Opponents of capital punishment ought not to seek reform of the clemency process in response to the defects that are all too prevalent within our judicial system.

Published In

Oregon Law Review







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