CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Posthumous Pardons

The truth of the observation that "the wheels of justice grind slowly but they grind exceedingly fine" is proved by a spate of pardons or applications for pardons on behalf of those excecuted decades and even centuries ago.  Members of Scotland's parliament are seeking a pardon for Sir William Wallace who, they observe in the understatement of the day, was treated in an "appalling way"--hung, drawn and quartered, based on suspicion of treason.  81 executed Scots witches were pardoned, leading the Mayor of Salem, Massachusetts to consider a pardon for those executed during the 1692 witch trials.  Efforts to obtain pardons for soldiers from Ireland, Scotland,and Canada executed during World War I are under consideration; the third strike for one Irish enlistee executed by the British Army was failing to put on his hatNew Zealand pardoned such soldiers a few years ago.  Here's a group working on this issue.

Of course, there are posthumous pardons for non-capital cases, including Lenny Bruce's 2003 pardon for an obscenity conviction, President Clinton's pardon of Henry O. Flipper, the first African American West Point graduate, and Georgia's 1986 pardon of Leo Frank, lynched in 1915.  Senators McCain, Hatch and Kennedy, among others, are currently seeking a pardon for fighter Jack Johnson, who was convicted of a Mann Act violation. 

It is inspiring to see people who can't just overlook what they perceive to be injustice.

Jack Chin

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