Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

TOP STORY>> Bill would open up clemency process

IN SHORT>> Cited for “mastery of the legislative process,” Sen. Bobby Glover has crafted a more rigorous, transparent clemency and pardon and parole bill that seems headed to become law.

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

With the apparent blessing of Gov. Mike Huckabee, state Sen. Bobby Glover’s bill to make the clemency process more transparent passed the Senate on Monday 34-1 and was forwarded to the House, where it landed in the House Judiciary Committee.

“During this whole session, we’ve passed bills to soften sentencing (to help with jail) overcrowding,” said Glover, the Car-lisle Democrat. “We’ve finally done something for the victims of crime.”

“Sen. Glover deserves a lot of credit for picking this issue up for crime victims and law enforcement officers,” said Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley. “We got torpedoed earlier with SB190, but he was dogged making the (clem-ency) process more accountable.”

“Glover has mastery of the legislative process,” he added.

“Glover backed us up after we had trouble getting SB190 out of committee,” said Jegley. “He met with the governor’s representatives and crafted a compromise that I and other prosecutors could support to ensure accountability.”

Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain was enthusiastic about the bill. “Bobby has worked so hard on this and he’s come up with something that everybody can live with. We support it.”

Its new provisions would require the governor to file his reasons for granting each clemency, pardon or parole. The bill would prohibit a prisoner-applicant whose clemency petition was denied from applying again for four years. Currently, an inmate may apply yearly.

Glover’s bill would give the Post Pardon Transfer Board subpoena power and require it to conduct an investigation of each person applying for clemency, pardon or parole.

After the board made a recommendation, the governor would have 240 days to act on the application.

Glover said the increased time is intended to take the haste out of the governor’s deliberation.

It would require notification of victims or their families, and the appropriate law enforcement offices and prosecutors of the application and allow time for their responses.

Applicants would have to sign their petitions under oath and include certified copies of the judgment and commitment orders.

The clemency process and the governor’s use of it became an issue to central Arkansans last year when Huckabee announced his intention last year to grant clemency to three convicted murderers.

One of those was Glen M. Green, the Little Rock Air Force Base sergeant who attempted to rape, then beat to death and threw in Bayou Meto Helen Lynette Spencer, a Gravel Ridge teenager. He was sentenced to life in prison in May 1976.

Green was convicted for beating Spencer with martial arts fighting sticks, running over her with a car and throwing her partially nude body off a bridge, but the governor wouldn’t have known that from reading Green’s application for executive clemency and commutation of his sentence.

“This is an agreed-upon bill,” said Glover, meaning that Huckabee agreed with it and would sign it if passed.
“It shouldn’t have much problem (in the House),” said the senator.

He said he didn’t know who would handle the bill for him in the house judiciary committee.