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Debating the Presidential Pardon Process

The New York Times is devoting the most recent installment of their Room for Debate feature to our presidential pardons series. The paper asked former Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., ACLU legislative director Laura W. Murphy, American University political professor Jeffrey Crouch and the Constitution Project's Louis Fisher to weigh in on the question "Are Presidential Pardons Fair?"

The ProPublica investigation revealed that white applicants were four times as likely to get a pardon than minorities and getting a member of Congress support tripled the chances of a pardon.

Some of the debaters said the pardons process suffers from a lack of seriousness due to the "Willie Horton syndrome" and that it points to deeper systemic problems in the criminal justice system. They also argued for more openness and reforming the Office of the Pardon Attorney.

Ultimately, as Professor Crouch wrote, "the ProPublica series in the Washington Post has helped push the conversation more in the direction of openness, but there is still a long road ahead."

Mike Webb

Mike Webb was the vice president/communications of ProPublica. He is a veteran communications specialist with experience in public relations, marketing, sales and campaign work at media companies, think tanks, political organizations and in the entertainment business.

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