Monday, January 19, 2009

Justice From Commutation

One of the last acts of a departing U.S. president is to issue pardons to convicted
criminals, ostensibly on the notion that they were wrongly incarcerated. Bill Clinton attained infamy in this regard, pardoning a total of 456 people, 140 of them in his final hours. Many were questionable, some detestable, but none worthy of applause.

President George W. Bush deserves wild rounds of applause for his latest commutations; setting free border patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. According to the AP, "Bush didn't pardon the men for their crimes, but decided instead to commute their prison sentences because he believed they were excessive and that they had already suffered the loss of their jobs, freedom and reputations, a senior administration official said".

Having served roughly 2 years of their sentences, they are scheduled to be released from prison in two months. Also from the AP account:

They were convicted of shooting admitted drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila in the buttocks as he fled across the Rio Grande, away from an abandoned van load of marijuana. The border agents argued during their trials that they believed the smuggler was armed and that they shot him in self defense. The prosecutor in the case said there was no evidence linking the smuggler to the van of marijuana. The prosecutor also said the border agents didn't report the shooting and tampered with evidence by picking up several spent shell casings.

The agents were fired after their convictions on several charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon and with serious bodily injury, violation of civil rights and obstruction of justice. All their convictions, except obstruction of justice, were upheld on appeal.

Not mentioned was the treatment the two agents received at the hands of their fellow inmates, which included severe beatings and constant harrassment. But they are free now, as they should be. Justice has been served well. Thank you, Mr. President.

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