Saturday, December 27, 2008


PS Ruckman Jr, Pardon Power - Ulysses S. Grant's first clemency decision, on his third day in office, was to revoke two pardons granted by Andrew Johnson. Both men challenged Grant's power to do so, and lost their case in federal court. A central passage in a judicial opinion read:

"If the president can arrest the mission of the messenger when the messenger has departed but ten feet from the door of the presidential mansion, he can arrest such mission at any time before the messenger delivers the pardon to the warden of the prison."

The fact that "the president" - in this case - meant two different presidents (Johnson and Grant), and the fact that - in this case - the warden had actually received the pardons but simply stuck them in his desk for a while, did not matter. The pardons had not actually been placed in the hands of Moses and Jacob DePuy, so the two men stayed in prison and were pardoned (by Grant) later.

Grant also revoked the pardon of James F. Martin, but the New York Times, reported that the official order from the State Department reached the U.S. Marshal in Massachusetts "too late." That is to say, Martin had accepted his pardon and had exited the premises. No effort was made to put him back.

Finally Grant revoked the pardon of Richard C. Enright, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $2,500 for conspiracy to defraud the government. Johnson granted a full pardon 12 months into the sentence but, before the pardon could reach Enright's hands, Grant revoked it. Enright had to cool his heels another 8 months.

In a 1975 article for Case and Commentary, distinguished attorney Melvin H. Belli referred to an instance in 1969 when the President "managed to head off a pardon granted by the previous President." According to Belli, a telegram was sent to "waylay" the pardon "just before it was delivered into the hands of the intended receivers."


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