View Full Version : Obama Has Pardoned Almost As Many Turkeys As Drug Offenders

11-27-2013, 11:44 AM
Obama Has Pardoned Almost As Many Turkeys As Drug Offenders

by Ryan J. Reilly
Posted: 11/27/2013 7:30 am EST


WASHINGTON -- When President Barack Obama pardons two overweight turkeys named Carmel and Popcorn during a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday, the number of pardons bestowed on semi-flightless birds during his presidency will almost match the number he has granted to human beings convicted of drug crimes.

Despite the administration's recent talk of reforming the criminal justice system, Obama has granted the fewest pardons of any modern president. Of the 39 pardons Obama has granted, just 11 have been for people convicted of drug crimes, according to Department of Justice records. He's granted 10 turkey pardons, sparing the birds from Thanksgiving execution to live out their lives on a farm.

If you count one commutation of sentence Obama granted, which was also for a prisoner convicted of a drug crime, Obama could theoretically even the human-fowl numbers next November if he pardons two more turkeys without granting any more human pardons. A presidential pardon grants a reprieve to a convict and ends the punishment. A commutation modifies the sentence, but doesn't affect the conviction.

Obama's human pardon number this year actually was higher than his turkey pardons. In both 2009 and 2012, Obama pardoned more turkeys than people. By comparison, Ronald Reagan, by this point in his presidency, had pardoned 313 people. Obama's total, including his one commutation, stands at 40.


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11-27-2013, 11:46 AM
Will Obama Pardon This Man (and Many Like Him) or Just a Turkey?

The White House is considering clemency reform, sources say, after compiling a historically unmerciful record.


By Ron Fournier
November 25, 2013

President Obama on Wednesday will pardon a Thanksgiving turkey. Which makes this a good time to ask why a liberal constitutional lawyer who bemoans the bloated prison system and proclaims that "life is all about second chances" is--on the matter of clemency--one of the stingiest presidents in U.S. history?

Put another way: If a turkey deserves a second chance, why not Weldon Angelos?

Angelos was sentenced in 2004 to 55 years' imprisonment for possessing a firearm in connection with selling small amounts of marijuana. He didn't brandish or use a weapon, nor did he hurt or threaten to injure anybody. And yet the father of young children and an aspiring music producer was given an effective life sentence because of a draconian federal law requiring mandatory minimum sentences.

Even the judge on his case, Paul G. Cassell, found the sentence "cruel and irrational." While urging Obama to reduce Angelos's punishment, the Republican-appointed judge wrote, "While I must impose the unjust sentence, our system of separated powers provides a means of redress."

More than almost any president, Obama has failed to exercise that "means of redress" inscribed in the Constitution, the presidential clemency. But that may be changing. The White House is considering a broad range of clemency reforms.

Why is this an issue?

According to an analysis of Justice Department data published by Reason.com, only three presidents made less use of the clemency power than did Obama during their first terms: George Washington, who had little cause to grant clemency in the nation's first days; William Henry Harrison, who died of pneumonia a month after taking office; and James Garfield, who was shot four months into his presidency.

After granting 17 pardons this year, according to the DOJ website, the total for Obama's presidency stands at 39 pardons (which clear people's records, typically after they've completed their sentences) and just one commutation (which shortens a prisoner's sentence).

As you can see from the graphic, Obama still ranks at the bottom historically, and his record extends a trend of presidential intolerance that dates to the tough-on-crime demagoguery of Presidents Nixon and Reagan--both of whom, ironically, were more generous with clemency powers than Obama.


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