Leonard Peltier Denied Clemency by Obama

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The Office of the Pardon Attorney has announced President Obama has denied clemency to imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier. Peltier is a former member of the American Indian Movement who was convicted of killing two FBI agents during a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975. He has long maintained his innocence.

Amnesty International condemned the decision.

“We are deeply saddened by the news that President Obama will not let Leonard go home,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Despite serious concerns about the fairness of legal proceedings that led to his trial and conviction, Peltier was imprisoned for more than 40 years. He has always maintained his innocence. The families of the FBI agents who were killed during the 1975 confrontation between the FBI and American Indian Movement (AIM) members have a right to justice, but justice will not be served by Peltier’s continued imprisonment.”

Peltier’s attorney Martin Garbus appeared on Democracy Now! today.

“I think it’s fair to say that if he doesn’t get commuted by President Obama, he’ll die in jail. He’s a very sick man,” Garbus said. “So, Obama’s not granting him clemency is like a sentence of death. Trump ain’t going to do it. And he’s very sick, and he’s not going to live past that time. I don’t want to be negative, but that’s the reality. He’s very sick, and he’s been in prison over 40 years, hard years, six years of solitary.”

Garbus was notified of Obama’s decision earlier today. In an email, the Office of the Pardon Attorney wrote: “The application for commutation of sentence of your client, Mr. Leonard Peltier, was carefully considered in this Department and the White House, and the decision was reached that favorable action is not warranted. Your client’s application was therefore denied by the President on January 18, 2017… Under the Constitution, there is no appeal from this decision.”

See our full coverage on Leonard Peltier


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US widens path to clemency for nonviolent federal drug offenders

 

The new Justice Department clemency guidelines, which apply to inmates who have served 10 years of their sentence, are designed to alleviate racial disparities left over from tough drug laws.

By Noelle Swan, Staff writer / April 23, 2014

 

The US Justice Department Wednesday widened the path to clemency for nonviolent federal drug offenders with an initiative designed to alleviate longstanding sentencing disparities left over from tough drug laws that disproportionately affected black drug offenders.

The new clemency guidelines apply to inmates who have served 10 or more years in prison and meet other criteria, with some analysts saying thousands of inmates could be affected.

“The attorney general’s and the president’s actions here are trying to remedy an historic wrong that has detrimented many citizens of color,” says Harvard Law School Professor Ronald Sullivan, director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute.

The move is consistent with the constitutional principle that punishment should be proportionate to the seriousness of the offense, says Sullivan, who chaired President Obama’s criminal justice policy group during the then-senator’s campaign for president. 

Mr. Obama took his first steps to bring drug sentencing in line with the seriousness of the offense by signing the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which revamped mandatory sentencing requirements for cocaine-related crime.

Prior to the act’s passage, predominantly black drug offenders convicted of possessing crack cocaine received mandated sentences that were significantly harsher than those imposed on predominantly white drug offenders facing charges relating to the powdered form of the same drug. Punishments for possession of a given amount of crack were on a par with punishments for possession of 100 times that amount of powdered cocaine. Under the act, that ratio was reduced from 100:1 to 18:1 for newly convicted crack cocaine offenders.

The new clemency guidelines aim to extend that equity to inmates convicted prior to 2010, but only if they meet several guidelines released by the Department of Justice on Wednesday. To qualify for consideration, inmates must have served 10 years of their sentence, have no other significant criminal record, have no significant ties to gangs or organized crime, and have demonstrated good behavior during their incarceration.

No one knows exactly how many people will actually meet all of the criteria for consideration, but the number could easily reach the thousands, says American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Vanita Gupta.

“I think [the clemency expansion] marks a turn away from the old business as usual in the federal criminal justice system,” Ms. Gupta says. “That said, it is not going alone to reduce the prison population, which is right now at a crisis point where the federal prison system is 35 to 40 percent over capacity.”

In July, Senator Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois Sen. Mike Lee (R) of Utah introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act, a bill that would shorten mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and grant judges more discretion when doling out punishment. The latest version of the bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in January and a similar bill has been referred to committee in the House of Representatives.

So far, the Smarter Sentencing Act has garnered considerable support from both sides of the aisle.

However, John Malcolm, a legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, suggests that the Obama administration’s announcement on Wednesday could jeopardize that support and effectively “poison the well” of congressional bipartisanship.

“This is a very broad action, it’s very precipitously done. It is sort of thumbing his nose at Congress in the sense of trying to develop any sort of bipartisan solutions here,” Mr. Malcolm says.

The ACLU’s Gupta sees it differently.

Several states, including the predominantly red states Texas, South Carolina, and South Dakota, have taken steps to reduce the number of inmates in the state prison system.

“I think the president is feeling empowered to do this in part because there has been tremendous conservative leadership on this in the states for several years now,” Gupta says.

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Clemency to Jeff Mizanskey: Life without parole for marijuana

Clemency to Jeff Mizanskey: Life without parole for marijuana

This petition will be delivered to:  Missouri, Gov. Jeremiah Nixon

Petition by  Chris Mizanskey  Sedalia, MO

My father Jeff Mizanskey has been in prison for 20 years and has no possibility of parole. For non-violent, marijuana-only offenses, my father has been sentenced to die in prison because of a “three strikes” mandatory sentencing policy in the State of Missouri.

Dad’s first offense was in 1984 when he sold an ounce to an undercover informant, and then was found to possess a half pound of marijuana when police raided his house the next day.  His next offense occurred in 1991, when he was caught in possession of a couple of ounces. But for my father’s final strike in 1993, he became an easy fall guy in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana. My dad was driving a friend to a deal that turned out to be a sting operation. All of the other convicted men involved were set free years ago, but my dad was given a virtual death sentence.

My dad is, and always has been, a good man. He taught my brother and I all about construction and a good work ethic. He has never been violent and he is a model prisoner. And over the 20 years he has been in that little cell, he has watched as violent criminals, rapists, and murderers have “paid their debts” and left – sometimes just to return a few months later.

My father is 61 years old, and has been in prison since he was 41. His parents – my grandparents – have since passed. While my dad has been trapped behind bars, generations of kids and grandkids have been born into our family who have never even met the man. The State of Missouri spends roughly $22,000/year to keep him locked up. Meanwhile all my dad wants to do is be a productive part of society, work and pay taxes, be with his family. And I want my dad back.

Governor Jay Nixon is the only person who has the power to bring my dad home by granting clemency to Jeff and calling 20 years punishment enough. Please help us reach a just and reasonable end to his prison sentence by signing and sharing this petition.

To:
Gov. Jeremiah Nixon, Missouri

Jeff Mizanskey is a non-violent, marijuana-only offender who has spent the last 20 years in a Missouri prison. He has been sentenced to be there for the rest of his life, and he has no opportunity for parole. The only hope he has to ever to become a working member of society or to hold his grandchildren in his hands is for you to grant him clemency.

His sentence was imposed because of the Prior and Persistent Drug Offender sentencing structure which requires life in prison without parole for his three felony marijuana-only offenses.
Jeff Mizanskey has never committed violence and is most certainly a model prisoner. For 20 years he has sat behind bars, only to watch as rapists and murders come and go and sometimes come back again. Meanwhile the State of Missouri spends roughly $22,000 annually to house him – over $400,000 has been spent so far.

 
On February 3, 2011, Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice William Ray Price, Jr., delivered his final State of the Judiciary address to the Missouri General Assembly. In that speech, Chief Justice Price lambasted Missouri’s “three strikes” drug-sentencing laws as enormously costly and ineffective. “Punishment,” Price said, “is a necessary part of our criminal justice system. But our real goal for nonviolent offenders is to teach them their lesson so they can become productive law-abiding members of our society. The goal is not to lock them into a life of crime, to make them permanent wards of the state.”
Jeff Mizanskey has been punished for 20 years. He has learned his lesson and wants to become a productive, law-abiding member of our society. The goal Price mentions has been more than reached, and it is time to give Jeff back his life.

On July 6, 2012, you signed the Justice Reinvestment Act, which was intended to reduce our prison population, save the state money, and ensure that punishments are proportional to violations for non-violent offenders. While this has done a great deal of good for so many Missourians, Jeff’s status has remained unchanged.
In October 2013, Gallup released a poll showing 58% of Americans support marijuana legalization. 58% of Americans recognize the principle that imprisoning Jeff Mizanskey for the rest of his life has no net positive social benefit.

In the spirit of the Justice Reinvestment Act and in the spirit of justice itself, please grant clemency to Jeff Mizanskey today. Please pardon Jeff Mizanskey so that he does not die in prison just for marijuana.

PLEASE CONTINUE TO LINK TO SIGN PETITION!