Monday, June 23, 2003

Patton pardons called 'a disgrace'

Governor's power 'way too broad'

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The foreman of the grand jury that indicted the four men whom Gov. Paul Patton pardoned last week described the governor's decision as "a disgrace to the jury system."

"We worked on that case for 17 months," said Rodney Raby, foreman of the 1995 special Franklin County grand jury.

If the grand jury had thought the men were innocent, he said, "we would not have indicted them. It just shows that the power of the governor to pardon is way too broad," he told a Lexington newspaper.

Patton issued pardons Wednesday for two of his top aides - chief of staff Andrew "Skipper" Martin and labor liaison Danny Ross - and longtime Teamsters leaders Lon Fields Sr. and Robert Winstead.

Patton also said he would not sign a death warrant for Kevin Stanford, who was sent to Death Row 20 years ago for raping and murdering 20-year-old Louisville gas station attendant Baerbel Poore when he was 17.

A mix of prosecutors and politicians questioned whether a governor should have such broad clemency powers.

Paul Richwalsky Jr., the initial special prosecutor in the campaign-finance case for Attorney General Ben Chandler, says the Legislature should review the governor's ability to issue pardons and commute sentences, especially death penalties.

Patton did both last week, "and was wrong in both," Richwalsky said.

"How could someone so morally bankrupt decide such moral issues?

"I think the people of Jefferson County are equally as irate over the Stanford commutation as they are over the pardons of Patton's thugs," said Richwalsky, now an assistant Jefferson County Attorney.

Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson said he favors an independent review board or agency for gubernatorial pardons and commutations.

"I don't want to take away a governor's power to correct incorrect situations," Larson said. "I just don't want such actions done for a political agenda."

But House Judiciary Chairman Gross Clay Lindsay, D-Henderson, said he has not seen "any wholesale abuse" of pardon or commutations by a Kentucky governor.

"Just about all of them have exercised their constitutional right to issue pardons or commutations," he said.

"Their pardons have been selective, and I think that is worth keeping."

He said wholesale abuse would involve such acts as Illinois Gov. George Ryan's decision in January to commute all 163 death sentences in his state to prison terms of life or less, the largest such emptying of Death Row in history.

Patton has said he did not intend to discuss Stanford on the day he issued the pardons. He said he was only responding to a reporter's question about Stanford.

Patton, in explaining his pardons for Martin and the others, said he has "great confidence in the judicial system of Kentucky, but it is not perfect.

"The power of the pardon is granted to Kentucky's governor for the purpose of, among other things, rectifying injustices and showing compassion," he said.

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