Bush’s Double Standard Special Treatment Crony Commutation of Scooter Libby

Brian Zick

Adam Liptak for the NY Times reports on the blatant contradictions which exist, differentiating Bush's exceedingly generous favoritism towards Libby in contrast with the history of his commutations and pardons as Governor of Texas.“As governor, Bush essentially viewed the clemency power as limited to cases of demonstrable actual innocence,” said Jordan M. Steiker, a law professor at the University of Texas who has represented death-row inmates. “The exercise of the commutation power in Libby,” Professor Steiker continued, “represents a dramatic shift from his attitude toward clemency in Texas, and it is entirely inconsistent with his longstanding, very limited approach.” In the six years that George W. Bush was governor of Texas, a state that executes more people than any other, he commuted a single death sentence and allowed 152 executions to go forward. He also pardoned 20 people charged with lesser crimes, said Maria Ramirez, the state’s clemency administrator. That was fewer than any Texas governor since the 1940s. As president, Mr. Bush has commuted three sentences in addition to Mr. Libby’s and denied more than 4,000 requests, said Margaret Colgate Love, the pardon lawyer at the Justice Department for most of the 1990s. He has also issued 113 pardons and denied more than 1,000 requests. “His grant rate is very low compared to other presidents’,” she said. In commuting Mr. Libby’s sentence, Mr. Bush said he had found it excessive. If Mr. Bush employed a similar calculus in Texas capital cases, he did not say so. Even in cases involving juvenile offenders and mentally retarded people, Mr. Bush allowed executions to proceed, saying that he was satisfied of the inmates’ guilt and that they had received a fair hearing. (…) Austin D. Sarat, a professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College and author of “Mercy on Trial,” a study of executive clemency, said it was hard to reconcile Mr. Bush’s actions as governor with the reasons he cited in the Libby matter. “The grounds he offered for commuting Libby’s sentence were equity — that the sentence was out of line with other sentences — or compassion,” Professor Sarat said. “Those two grounds seem so out of character with anything Bush had ever said or done in the area of clemency that it’s as if he has become a different person.”

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