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Presidential Pardons

To avoid repeating a scandal like his predecessor's, George W. Bush gave career lawyers in the Justice Department far-reaching authority to choose who got presidential pardons. The result: Whites are nearly four times as likely as minorities to win a pardon, even when the type of crime and severity of sentence are taken into account. More »

Letters from members of Congress triple a criminal's chances of receiving a presidential pardon. Roger Adams, longtime pardon attorney at the Justice Department, acknowledges that lawmakers' support adds "weight" to applicants' prospects. More »

Document Dive: Politicians and Pardons

The prosecutor and trial judge urged federal officials to commute Clarence Aaron’s sentence, but the Justice Department had other ideas. More »

A Department of Justice Inspector General report concluded that the head of the pardons office may have mishandled the case of Clarence Aaron. More »

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President Obama Tells Clarence Aaron He Can Finally Go Home

The president has ordered an early release from prison for Aaron, whose problematic case we have detailed.

The Sweeping Presidential Power to Help Prisoners That Holder Didn’t Mention

President Obama has the power to shorten the sentence of federal prisoners. But he has only used it once.

Clarence Aaron Still Waiting for Clemency, Months after Report Found Pardon Atty Misrepresented Case

The Justice Department’s Inspector General found that the Pardon Attorney misrepresented facts to the White House about a prisoner’s request for commutation. Months later, the Department won’t say what actions have been taken.

Despite New Pardons, Obama’s Clemency Rate is Still Lowest in Recent History

The White House announced 17 pardons on Friday. But Obama has still granted clemency at a lower rate than his predecessors.

IG Report: Senior Justice Department Official Shares Blame in Botched Clemency Case

The Justice Department's inspector general says David Margolis, an associate deputy attorney general, did not properly supervise the pardon attorney on the Clarence Aaron case.

Head of Pardons Office Withheld Facts From White House in Key Case

A Department of Justice Inspector General report concluded that the head of the pardons office may have mishandled the case of Clarence Aaron.

Obama Has Granted Clemency More Rarely Than Any Modern President

Given few positive recommendations by the Justice Department, Obama has handed out pardons and commutations at a lower rate than any of his recent predecessors, a ProPublica analysis shows.

Details Emerge on Government Study of Presidential Pardons

A review triggered by stories published by ProPublica and The Washington Post will test the effect of race on pardon decisions.

Obama Administration Wants Review of Prisoner’s Commutation Request

The Justice Department is reviewing the commutation request of a federal inmate while conducting its first-ever in-depth analysis of presidential pardons.

Congressional Leader Calls for Investigation of the Pardon Office

ProPublica’s story about federal prison inmate Clarence Aaron prompts Rep. John Conyers to press President Obama to open a Justice Department probe.

Video: Clarence Aaron on PBS Frontline’s ‘Snitch’

Pardon Attorney Torpedoes Plea for Presidential Mercy

The prosecutor and trial judge urged federal officials to commute Clarence Aaron's sentence, but the Justice Department had other ideas.

Timeline: Tracking Aaron’s Quest for Clemency

Law School Clinic for Pardons Planned

Spurred by findings in a ProPublica investigation, former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich pushes for a program to address inequities in the pardons process.

House Panel Queries Attorney General About Pardon Office

The questions from the House Judiciary Committee follow ProPublica's investigation into the Justice Department's pardon office and a finding of racial bias against minorities.

Barbour Says Pardoned Murderers Deserved ‘a Second Chance’

Former governor says pardons should be based on "Christian belief in repentance, forgiveness and redemption."

In Mississippi, Identities of Pardon Applicants Must Be Public

A state judge has blocked the release of 21 people, including five convicted of murder, who were pardoned by the outgoing governor. One issue is whether they had given sufficient public notice of their intent to seek release, allowing time for victims to comment.

Pardons and Presidents – A Washington Post Editorial

Late last year, ProPublica and the Washington Post published a series of stories that exposed racial disparities in the awarding of presidential pardons. This past Sunday, the Washington Post's editorial page urged President Obama to reform the pardons process.

Perry More Generous With Pardons Than Romney

Mitt Romney has boasted about granting no pardons as Massachusetts governor from 2003-07, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry has pardoned 178 people in his nearly 11 years in office.

How the Nixon Pardon Strained a Presidential Friendship

In 1974, President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon before he could be prosecuted in the Watergate scandal shocked the country. It also tested a friendship of some 25 years when Jerald terHorst, Ford’s press secretary and biographer, resigned in protest.

Racial Disparity in Presidential Pardons: What Can Be Done?

ProPublica found that whites are almost four times as likely as minorities to be pardoned. To break the pattern of bias, experts say, would require reconsidering the subjective factors used to judge applicants.

Congressional Letters: Power and Persuasion Don’t Always Add Up to Pardons

Records obtained by ProPublica show that members of Congress weighed in on a wide variety of pardon applications, but having powerful friends was by no means a guarantee of success.

Pardon Applicants Benefit From Friends in High Places

Letters from members of Congress triple a criminal's chances of receiving a presidential pardon. Roger Adams, longtime pardon attorney at the Justice Department, acknowledges that lawmakers' support adds "weight" to applicants' prospects.

Michele Bachmann Lobbied For Campaign Donor’s Pardon

Brushing aside objections from a senior Department of Justice official, the DOJ's pardon attorney sent a pardon application from Frank Vennes Jr. forward with a favorable recommendation only to find out that Vennes was under federal investigation.

Top 10 Elected Officials Who Wrote Letters on Behalf of Pardon Applicants

Document Dive: Politicians and Pardons

The Kind of Journalism That Demands Action

Several steps could solve the racial disparity in presidential pardons that our joint project with The Washington Post has exposed -- starting with a requirement that any member of Congress who writes on behalf of a pardon applicant disclose campaign donations.

How ProPublica Analyzed Pardon Data

Presidential Pardons Heavily Favor Whites

To avoid repeating a scandal like his predecessor’s, George W. Bush gave career lawyers in the Justice Department far-reaching authority to choose who got presidential pardons. The result: Whites are nearly four times as likely as minorities to win a pardon.

Contrasting Colors, Contrasting Results

The Shadow of Marc Rich

Few pardons have had a more lasting effect than President Clinton's 11th-hour decision to forgive Marc Rich.

Perspectives on Pardons

How We Analyzed Pardons

Acknowledgments

Starting Over: When Presidential Forgiveness Changes a Life

A president's pardon doesn't wipe someone's criminal record clean, but it is an official act of forgiveness that can open career doors for offenders like Serena Nunn, whose long-ago felony conviction stands in the way of admission to the Georgia State Bar.

Parsing Presidential Pardons

Timeline: A History of Pardons

Document Dive
Data

How ProPublica Analyzed Pardon Data

From Our Partner: Data Interactive
Timeline
Comparisons
In Their Own Words
Our Partner

The Washington Post

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Shades of Mercy

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