Sentencing/Post Conviction

Bush Breaks Routine in Libby Case

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When he was governor of Texas, George W. Bush generally exercised his power to grant clemency only when actual innocence had been demonstrated.

Bush explained his philosophy in his 1999 memoir, A Charge to Keep, according to a New York Times article.

“In every case,” he wrote, “I would ask: Is there any doubt about this individual’s guilt or innocence? And, have the courts had ample opportunity to review all the legal issues in this case?”

Bush apparently broke from that philosophy when he commuted a 30-month prison sentence for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the Times reports.

Libby was convicted of lying to investigators probing the leak of a CIA agent’s identity. Bush said he felt the sentence was unfair, but did not express doubts about guilt and acted before an appeal was decided.

Law professor Jordan Steiker of the University of Texas told the Times the commutation “represents a dramatic shift from his attitude toward clemency in Texas, and it is entirely inconsistent with his long-standing, very limited approach.”

In Texas, Bush commuted one death sentence and pardoned 20 people. As president, he has commuted four sentences, including Libby’s, denying more than 4,000 such requests from others; and he has issued 113 pardons, denying more than 1,000 such requests from others.

“His grant rate is very low compared to other presidents,” said Margaret Colgate Love, a pardon lawyer at the Justice Department in the 1990s.

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