Imagine being counted out then BOOM… President Obama adds you to a list of people who will get granted a clemency. Well that’s exactly what happened for Akron, OH natives James Dillehay and Ervin Worthy.
James Dillehay was sentenced to life in prison in 1993 for allegedly being the ring leader of a cocaine conspiracy. FBI agents described him as a “local drug kingpin” but Dillehay always maintained his innocence.
Ervin Worthy was also sentenced to life. He was convicted of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, possessing a firearm with an altered serial number and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.
WHERE DOES THE PRESIDENT’S PARDON POWER COME FROM?
Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution says: “The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” The president’s power can only be used to pardon someone for a federal crime, not a state one.
HOW DOES THE PARDON PROCESS USUALLY WORK?
Someone who has been convicted of a federal crime and wants to be pardoned makes a request for a pardon to the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney, which assists the president in exercising his pardon power. Department rules tell pardon seekers to wait at least five years after their conviction or their release from prison, whichever is later, before filing a pardon application.
It’s then up to the pardon office to make a recommendation about whether a pardon is warranted. The office looks at such factors as how the person has acted following their conviction, the seriousness of the offense and the extent to which the person has accepted responsibility for their crime. Prosecutors in the office that handled the case are asked to weigh in. The pardon office’s report and recommendation gets forwarded to the deputy attorney general, who adds his or her recommendation. That information is then forwarded to the White House for a decision.
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S LAST PUSH –
WASHINGTON — President Obama granted 78 pardons and 153 commutations in one day — a single-day record for the use of presidential clemency power as Obama engages in an historic end-of-term clemency surge.
With just 32 days left in office, Obama more than doubled the number of pardons he granted in the previous seven years.
And he continued his vigorous use of a lesser form of his clemency power, having now commuted the sentences of 1,176 federal prison inmates — mostly for long, mandatory-minimum drug sentences imposed during a war on drugs waged over the past three decades.
Obama began his clemency initiative in 2014 as a way to shorten the sentences of drug offenders given what he considered to be unduly harsh sentences. That effort has felt a new urgency since the election of Donald Trump, who has named as his attorney general one of the biggest critics of Obama’s use of commutations. “The president is playing a dangerous game to advance his political ideology,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said after Obama granted a single-day record 214 commutations in August.
Overall, including both full pardons and commutations, Obama has now granted more acts of clemency since President Harry Truman.
With more than half of Obama’s clemency actions taking place in his last year in office, pardon expert P.S. Ruckman Jr. called it “the greatest last-minute surge in history” — even exceeding President Bill Clinton’s use of pardons in the last months of his presidency.