During his four years in office, Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, a Republican, had national attention for the aggressive use of his executive clemency powers, pardoning or commuting the sentences of 249 convicts, including several serving life sentences for murder. His successor, Martin O’Malley, has abruptly reversed that trend, reports the Washington Post. Nearly 2 1/2 years into his term, O’Malley is preparing to grant his first pardons, to seven people convicted years ago of such crimes as petty theft and disorderly conduct. O’Malley’s only previous acts of clemency were releasing two prisoners who were in advanced stages of AIDS. Both were required to return if their conditions improved.
O’Malley, a Democratic former mayor of Baltimore, said he views clemency requests as less pressing than his other public-safety priorities, including expanding a state DNA database used to solve crimes. “I suppose my orientation from being a big-city mayor and having seen the violence on our streets is more of a tough-on-crime orientation,” he said. “You probably won’t see me doing as many of these as past governors.” Margaret Love, a Washington, D.C. lawyer who specializes in executive clemency, said O”Malley’s stance is also out of step with a growing number of governors, including Ehrlich, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential aspirant who came to realize the benefits of clemency despite apparent political risks.