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.

Figure of Justice

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.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    It would be nice if he pardoned every single person with similar circumstances.
    But my bet is no.

  2. I’d have to see what the 700 pardons that Beebe has issued during his time in office amount to, but yea I do tend to agree with you there.

    There have been some rumors that Obama may be considering issuing mass pardons in non-violent drug cases, but so far nothing has happened. It would piss a lot of people off but I would support him if he did it.

  3. KM says:


    It would piss a lot of people off but I would support him if he did it.

    What are they gonna do, impeach him? *eye roll* I agree, let the haters hate and let my people go!

  4. Trumwill says:

    @C. Clavin: He really should. It at least find all the cases like his son’s. His future in Arkansas politics is probably iffy enough that it wouldn’t hurt and it could help (unlikely, but possible). Mostly, though, it would make him – an outgoing governor from a not-large state – a household name. George Ryan will probably be remembered more for the clemency than the corruption.

  5. J-Dub says:

    Kids when they’re young do stupid stuff. He was no different

    White kids do stupid stuff, black kids are criminals that need to be locked up.

  6. J-Dub says:

    Charged in 2003, now 34 years old…again white males are still “kids” at 23. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a 23 year old black male drug trafficker described as a “kid”.

  7. lankyloo says:

    This reminds me of Richard J. Daley when asked about why he was steering city work to a firm that his son worked at:

    If a man can’t put his arms around his sons and help them, then what’s the world coming to?

  8. rob says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    agree but like with immigration, is highly unlikely as it would have a lot of blow back on the Dems

  9. Ryan Hill says:

    @lankyloo: And Daley’s quip reminds me of the fictional but colorful mob boss Junior Soprano telling his lawyer “if you can’t get your friends jobs, what’s the point of attaining success?”

    This was in Episode 9 of Season 1, titled “Boca”.

    Junior was in his lawyer’s office, telling the lawyer that he was sick of hearing about his upcoming federal indictments and was decamping to Boca with his girlfriend, along with 20,000 of money from his union’s labor management fund, which they planned to use to further their research and development into the “art and science of metal and ceramic joint-fitting.”

  10. RockThisTown says:

    “In this case, the Parole Board considered Kyle Beebe’s application, and recommended that the pardon be granted.”
    “In this case, though, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything inappropriate going on . . .”

    Er . . does it make a difference that as Gov., Beebe appointed the Parole Board members? Could that possibly be a tad inappropriate? If the Parole Board recommended the pardon, why didn’t Beebe just let his son try to get it with a new Governor?