Friday, January 23, 2009

Better late than never

I was heartened to see the outgoing president make one of his final acts commuting the sentences of two border patrol agents:

On January 19, in one of his final acts as president, George W. Bush commuted the prison sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, two former Border Patrol agents who were convicted of shooting a fleeing Mexican drug dealer near the U.S. border while trying to apprehend him. (New York Times, January 19, 2009).

Republican and Democratic lawmakers had urged the President to pardon the agents. In response to the commutation, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said: "This is not just a day of celebration for the families but it is a victory for all Americans, while acknowledging our system is flawed, to see that if they are involved, if they speak up and utilize their freedom, injustices can be corrected." (Rohrabacher Press Release, January 19, 2009).

A presidential pardon would have vacated Ramos and Compean's sentences whereas the commutation merely cuts short their sentences without vacating the conviction itself. The effect of the commutation will allow the two Border Patrol agents to be released in the next few months. (Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) Press Release, January 19, 2009).

That these become his signature pardons, while his predecessor's signature pardon was sold to a tax cheat for almost a million dollars, speaks volumes about our last two presidents.

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