Friday, June 15, 2007

Romney denied pardons in Massachusetts, even from war veteran.

A lot of people have probably read this article by now because it was reported by the Associated Press and featured on Yahoo! News, USA Today, CNN, and several other major media outlets.

How does he expect people to find employment and/or housing?
BOSTON (AP) — A decorated Iraq war veteran, convicted as a boy for a pellet gun shooting, seemed like an ideal candidate for a pardon from then - Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  But Romney, now a U.S. Republican presidential candidate, said no — twice — despite the recommendation of the Commonwealth's Board of Pardons.

At age 13, Anthony Circosta was convicted of assault for shooting another boy in the arm with a BB gun, a shot that did not break the skin. Circosta worked his way through college, joined the Army National Guard and led a platoon of 20 soldiers in Iraq's deadly Sunni triangle.

In 2005, as he was serving in Iraq, he sought a pardon to fulfill his dream of becoming a police officer.  "I've done everything I can to give back to my state and my community and my country, and my commonwealth to get brushed aside is very frustrating," said Circosta, 29.

In his presidential bid, Romney often proudly points out that he was the first governor in modern Massachusetts history to deny every request for a pardon or commutation during his four years in office. He says he refused pardons because he did not want to overturn a jury.

But critics argue that the blanket policy is an abdication of a key power given governors and the president — the ability to recognize how someone convicted of a past crime has turned their life around.

During the four years Romney was in office, 100 requests for commutations and 172 requests for pardons were filed in the state. All were denied.

While he refused all requests for pardons as Governor, Romney has said that could change if he is elected president. Asked in last week's debate if he would consider pardoning Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was convicted of lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation, Romney said: "It's worth looking at that. I will study it very closely if I'm lucky enough to be president. And I'd keep that option open."

During his first year in office, the Board of Pardons recommended 11 pardons and two commutations. After Romney decided against granting any, the number of hearings dropped dramatically. During the next three years, the board recommended just four pardons and a single commutation.

His Excellency, Governor Romney rejected every one.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Colorado legislators have approved a bill that would permit convicted criminals to seal certain criminal court records

Colorado legislators have approved a bill that would permit convicted criminals to seal certain criminal court records, a move open government advocates say would impede the public's right to know.

The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Bill Ritter, who has until June 4 to sign the legislation. The proposed law would allow people convicted of crimes to petition the courts 10 years after their cases have ended to have their criminal records sealed. The bill applies to people who have had no convictions in a decade and excludes certain criminal convictions, including traffic offenses, DUI, child abuse and sex offenses.

If their requests are granted, those people then would not have to indicate on a job application, except to a criminal justice agency, that they were convicted.

In a nod to the concerns raised by the Colorado Press Association, the bill was amended to require court administrators to post notices of requests to seal criminal records on court Web sites for 30 days. The public may also ask to have cases unsealed based on new information or circumstances that could tip the balance in favor of public disclosure.

Greg Romberg, a lobbyist for the press association, said the media is still opposed to the bill. "Public records should remain open to the public," he said.

Romberg said, however, that the changes at least mitigate some of the negative effects of the bill by allowing the public's concerns about sealing records to "come to light" in a court hearing, which the original version of the bill did not allow.

He also said the change about allowing previously sealed cases to be reopened could apply in cases where people have made themselves into public figures by, for instance, running for public office.

"That would be a situation where it would be hard for a judge not to take a look at that," he said.

Currently, Colorado law allows records to be sealed when a person was not charged or when charges were dismissed because of a plea agreement in another case. The bill now under consideration would also reduce the amount of time those people must wait to ask to have their records sealed, from 15 years to 10 years after all criminal proceedings end.

The state House approved the legislation by a 46-18 vote in April, while state senators passed the bill earlier this month in a 26-8 vote. The proposed law was introduced in January.