President Bush has commuted prison sentences in only four cases, the most prominent being that of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case, says the Los Angeles Times. Bush has granted full pardons to more than 100 people — but only after they had served their time. Hundreds of people seek clemency every year with little or no guidance or hope. Their petitions are filed with the 12-person Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Justice Department, whose recommendations are never made public. Applicants often wait years for a response.
Some prominent conservative jurists have come to believe that clemency is a tool of the justice system that is not used enough. “The pardon process, of late, seems to have been drained of its moral force,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said 2003 in a speech calling on lawyers to file more petitions. While defendants in many cases have not served their full sentences, they have served long enough, Kennedy said. The Times tells the story of one of the very few to have a sentence commuted by Bush: Phillip Emmert, who was sentenced to 27 years in prison even though he was a first-time drug offender.