Monday, January 19, 2009
CNN reports that, on his final full day in office, President Bush issued commutations for two former border patrol agents convicted in 2006 of shooting an undocumented immigrant who was smuggling drugs at the time. The prison sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean will now end March 20. Ramos had received an 11-year prison sentence; Compean had received a 12-year sentence. The Fifth Circuit had refused to disturb the convictions.
The Department of Justice press release lists the terms of the commutations. The prison sentences are set to expire on March 20, 2009, with the three year term of supervised release with its conditions and the fines left intact.
The N.Y. Times reported that "[a] senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the president `thinks [Ramos and Compean] were fairly tried and received a just verdict' but that the punishment was `excessive, especially given the harsh conditions in which they have to serve their sentences.'” Hundreds of other defendants had petitioned for leniency. President Bush used his clemency power to aid only Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compean. He leaves office having granted 200 pardons and commutations, the fewest of any two-term president in modern times. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Bush issued 33 clemency orders, an unusually fast clip for him. In the case of the Border Patrol agents, Mr. Bush granted clemency without a formal recommendation from the Justice Department, which had not yet completed its review.
AP reported that "Mexico's Deputy Secretary for Foreign Relations Carlos Rico condemned the [commutation of the sentences] and said Mexican officials had lobbied hard against it. `This is a message of impunity,' Rico said at a news conference. `It's difficult to understand.'"