In the 1990s, Harold and Dewayne Damper were involved in a drug trafficking operation that brought cocaine from Southern California to Mississippi at the rate of about 1 kilo of cocaine a month, prosecutors said. The two brothers, known as “Odie” and “Doogie,” were indicted together, tried together, given the same sentence and, until recently, served their sentences at the same minimum-security prison, USA Today reports. When President Obama announced a clemency initiative to give drug dealers like them a second chance, both applied for presidential clemency. Dewayne received a commutation and was released to a halfway house last week. Harold’s case was denied. He’s still in prison.
The case illustrates a central challenge in the pending clemency initiative, as the Justice Department has tried to evaluate the record 32,551 commutation petitions it’s received during the Obama presidency. Each case is reviewed separately and on its own merits, leading to complaints that the criteria are often applied inconsistently and subjectively. “I’ve looked at a lot of cases and wondered, why this guy and not that guy? It’s the process. When you have a process that is vertical and goes through seven layers of review, you’re going to get aberrational results,” said Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and a leading advocate of changing the clemency system. “The problem is the process, not the president.”