WI Gov To Issue Four Pardons. Good Idea Or Nah?

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers today will issue four pardons – the first that state has seen in nine years. Three of those receiving pardons want to serve their country and their communities. And the other guy? Well, he just wants to prove he can last eight seconds, y’all.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Eric Pizer, a decorated Iraq War veteran, got into a bar fight just two days after returning from his second Middle East deployment. He intervened in an altercation between his buddy and another guy. And he broke the other guy’s nose. Badly.

For some reason, Pizer’s story reminds me of the motivation behind Nicolas Cage’s character, Cameron Poe, in ConAir (1997). Both former servicemen get in bar fights while they are celebrating their return home. Both of them are good guys who just want to relax, when things go horribly wrong. Okay, that’s where the similarities end. Pizer doesn’t end up on a plane with a bunch of killer convicts. And, as far as I know, he doesn’t call his wife Hummingbird or get vicious about stuffed bunny rabbits.

Pizer was charged with felony substantial battery. He served two years of probation and paid the other guy’s medical bills. But he also studied criminal justice and hopes to become a police officer. Only one thing has been standing in his way: His felony record precludes him from being able to carry a gun.

The other three men receiving clemency are: Kevin Sorenson, a convicted drug dealer who later worked as an Air Force civilian employee and now wants to serve more in the military; Mwangi Vasser, another convicted drug dealer who now has his doctorate in theology and wants to be a military chaplain; and Steven Nichols, a felony burglar who wants to hunt and to cross the border for an annual rodeo.

All four men have completed their sentences, which is a requirement for the board’s consideration.

Evers’ predecessor, Republican Scott Walker, for eight years had a no-pardons policy, with one oddly touching exception. In fact, many, if not most, conservatives in public office appear to have a no-executive-clemency policy; or at least they issue less pardons, overall.

That’s a rigid stance, in my opinion.

Why do liberal governors seem to issue more pardons than conservative governors? While I understand the importance of being tough on crime and letting judges and courts do their jobs without interference, I can also see why we conservatives are often called unreasonable and inflexible.

In fact, I tend to agree with an Op-Ed piece written by former prosecutor and circuit judge Edward Marion, printed in the Jan 28, 2014 issue of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“The exercise of executive clemency is part of the criminal justice system, and, ultimately, a compassionate society’s last chance to see that justice has been done.”

True, the only people seeking pardons are people who are guilty…but they are also people who have served their time and paid their debt to society. If a pardon is the only way they can get a second chance, then perhaps we should at least review their requests for clemency.

Do I say this hoping that all who request a pardon receive one? Certainly not. I think pardons should be a rarity. But for Pizer, Vasser and Sorenson – all who have proven their desire to serve others – I support clemency. That other guy – the one who just wants to hunt and travel with the rodeo? Well, what can I say, except…yeehaw?



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