Governor Of Arkansas Set To Pardon His Son
On his way out of office, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe is set to pardon his son for an 11 year-old non-violent marijuana conviction.
At some point before he leaves office, outgoing Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe will apparently use his pardon power to pardon his son for an eleven year old drug conviction:
Outgoing Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe says he is planning to pardon his own son for a decade-old pot conviction.
“I would have done it a long time ago if he’d have asked, but he took his sweet time about asking. He was embarrassed. He’s still embarrassed, and frankly, I was embarrassed and his mother was embarrassed,” Beebe told KATV, ABC’s affiliate in Little Rock on Wednesday.
Beebe’s son Kyle was charged in 2003 with possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, with intent to deliver and sentenced to three years probation and fined, the outlet said. Beebe was serving as the state’s attorney general at the time.
“If he broke the law, he needs to pay for it. He needs to be treated like everybody else — no better, worse,” Beebe said at the time.
However, Beebe said his son, now 34, has learned from his mistakes.
“Kids when they’re young do stupid stuff. He was no different,” said Beebe, who noted that he’s issued more than 700 pardons during his tenure. “Especially young people with drugs if they’ve straightened up, to get their life back on track and have a second chance, so this is no different. It’s different because it’s my son.”
A spokesman for the state’s parole board told KATV that the fact Kyle Beebe is the governor’s son played no role in the decision to approve his application for a pardon.
“I can tell you that [Kyle] Beebe did not receive any special treatment by the Board while his application was under consideration,” the spokesman said.
As a legal matter, and going by the text of Section 18 of Article 6 of the Constitution of Arkansas [PDF], the power of the Governor of Arkansas to pardon appears to be as effectively unlimited as the power that the Constitution of the United States grants to the President of United States. Obviously, just as the President cannot generally pardon someone who has been convicted or charged based solely under state law, a Governor cannot pardon someone for offenses committed under Federal law. That being said, it appears that just as the President has to some extent delegated the process of choosing appropriate cases for pardon and clemency to an office staffed by career attorneys in the Department of Justice who review each application and make recommendations, there is a similar provision in Arkansas law that routes pardon requests through the state’s Parole Board. That, however, seems to be the only limitation on Beebe’s power here, so he could have effectively pardoned his son at any time while he has been Governor, although it obviously would have raised more serious political problems had he done this in the past than if he does it, as he apparently will, on his way out of office. In this case, the Parole Board considered Kyle Beebe’s application, and recommended that the pardon be granted. You can read the Parole Board’s short report for yourself, which also notes that there was no law enforcement objection to the pardon.
All that being said, I can certainly understand why something like this would raise eyebrows at the very least. Given the virtually unlimited nature of the pardon power there has always been a concern that a Chief Executive, whether a Governor or a President will use it to protect cronies, friends, or, as in this case, family members. That’s the reason why many states have adopted changes to the law that require pardons to go through some sort of independent review that takes at least some of the absolute power out of the Executives hands and puts it in the hands of a supposedly independent board that reviews the applications and judges them based on criteria that are at least supposed to be objective. It is also one of the reasons why Presidents have utilized the Pardon Attorney’s Office in the Justice Department to provide at least some what of a buffer zone between them and the decisions that are made. In the case of the Federal Constitution, of course, there is no requirement that the President rely solely on this process to evaluate pardon requests, or even that the President wait for an official request before deciding to pardon someone. Quite often, though, that has led to political headaches for Presidents, which is why we often see Presidents waiting until the end of the time in office before issuing many pardons at all, and why the number of pardons issued overall has declined significantly from where they used to be. On some level, that last fact is unfortunate because the pardon and clemency power, while an extraordinary one that should be used judiciously, often stands as the final means by which someone who has been treated unjustly by our legal system can have their case addressed. Even though it is rooted in appeals to the throne from English law, it is part of our Constitution, and the Constitutions of the states, so if it is going to be used it should be used for the right purposes,
In any case, there is admittedly something troubling about a Chief Executive pardoning a family member In this case, though, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything inappropriate going on, especially given the fact that the younger Beebe has had a clean record since his original conviction. Additionally, the fact that Governor Beebe has applied this pardon to other people in the same position as his son suggests that he is genuinely concerned with the issue of people who have been victimized by the War On Drugs in this manner. So, while certainly worthy of scrutiny, Beebe’s decision here doesn’t seem to be improper.