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    Sam and the Governor’s Clemency Panel

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    Sam and the Governor’s Clemency Panel

    Post by Admin on Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:34 pm

    Sam and the Governor’s Clemency Panel


    Fifty years ago Sam was one of three students who went to their high school, Madison High, and started shooting with automatic weapons. Fourteen students and a teacher were killed. Many other students were injured, including one girl who was paralyzed for life. Sam's two accomplices committed suicide at the school. Sam was caught and tried as an adult, as he'd turned eighteen the week before. Although the prosecutor wanted the death penalty, Sam got life in prison without parole from the jury.

    A half a century later, Sam has asked the governor to commute his sentence to time served. Although Sam's sentence means he can't get parole from the prison system's parole board, a governor (or president) has an historical power to change sentences, such as commuting a death sentence to life in prison, releasing people for time served, and pardoning. (A pardon erases the whole conviction.)

    Sam says he doesn't want a pardon, but that after fifty years, he is no threat to society, and is a changed person. He says he is no longer the eighteen-year-old kid that committed the crime. He argues that he is a harmless sixty-eight year old man who deeply regrets what happened, but who has changed so much and experienced so much that he simply is "not the person who committed the crime."

    The survivors and the victim's families have objected to any change in Sam's sentence. They think that "Life means life," and a life sentence should be exactly that. The paralyzed woman died ten years after the attack, and her family argues that Sam should have a "life sentence" just like she did. They say Sam may look different and say he's sorry, but the jury's sentence should remain if people are to have faith in the judicial system.

    You are sitting on a panel appointed by the governor to review Sam's request to be released. Explain your choice:

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