The Obama administration has asked for a fresh review of an Alabama federal inmate’s commutation request and directed the Justice Department to conduct its first in-depth analysis of recommendations for presidential pardons, reports ProPublica. The Justice Department’s Office of Pardon Attorney has been at the center of controversy since December, when ProPublica and the Washington Post reported on a racial disparity in pardons. White applicants were four times more likely to get presidential mercy than minorities.
A subsequent story told of Clarence Aaron, a first-time offender sentenced in 1993 to three life terms in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy. In 2008, the pardon attorney recommended that President George W. Bush deny Aaron’s request for a commutation even though his application had the support of the prosecutor’s office that tried him and the judge who sentenced him. Pardon attorney Ronald Rodgers did not fully disclose that information to the White House. Recent presidents have granted fewer pardons than their predecessors. Bush granted 189 during his two-term presidency, less than half the number pardoned by President Bill Clinton. So far, President Obama has pardoned 22 people. Advisers to the president said they expect that number to rise significantly whether or not he is elected to a second term.