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Copyright (c) 2003 by the Capital University Law Review
Capital University Law Review

SYMPOSIUM: FORGIVENESS & THE LAW: EXECUTIVE CLEMENCY AND THE AMERICAN SYSTEM OF JUSTICE: How to Grant Clemency in Unforgiving Times

2003

Capital University Law Review

31 Cap. U.L. Rev. 219

Author

DANIEL T. KOBIL *

Excerpt

The line between mercy and justice is a bright one for Tom Jones' brutish tutors, Thwackum and Square. In their view, justice is concerned with ensuring the "rule of right," by punishing wrongs, while mercy undermines "just" punishment. The two concepts are mutually exclusive, and should be treated differently by those in authority: "doing justice" is properly suited to human endeavors, while dispensing mercy belongs to the realm of the divine.

Today, many in positions of authority believe that the official embodiment of mercy in America's legal system, clemency, should be used only to "do justice," in Thwackum's sense of the word. Many governors and clemency board members seem to believe that if there is a place for clemency at all in the criminal justice system, its only possible role is to remedy the most blatant judicial errors. 2 This crabbed vision of clemency leads executives to deny commutations and pardons in cases that, for many, seem to cry out for mercy. Former Governor of Texas, George W. Bush demonstrated this approach when he denied the request of Karla Faye Tucker for postponement of her death sentence, despite widespread support for Tucker's plea. 3 Tucker sought clemency because she had found Christianity, had been rehabilitated, and evidently had become a completely different person from the one who had been convicted of murder, yet Bush's belief in justice as "rendering what is due" caused him to refuse her:
Karla Faye Tucker has acknowledged she is guilty of ...


 
 
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