Is There Justice in Mercy? the Retributive Philosophies of Executive Clemency

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Executive clemency is assumed to be a mechanism to correct miscarriages of justice brought about by the criminal justice system, yet little empirical research exists to confirm this assumption. This research study examined the types of rationales cited in 799 cases of executive clemency from six states from 2005 to 2012. Rationales based upon retributive philosophies, in which a miscarriage of justice was cited, were further analyzed. This analysis revealed that only seven percent of all clemency decisions from the examined states cited retributive rationales. Of the fifty-six grants of clemency that cited retributive rationales, most were granted in the ... continued below

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Gibbs, Gina N. May 2013.

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  • Gibbs, Gina N.

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Executive clemency is assumed to be a mechanism to correct miscarriages of justice brought about by the criminal justice system, yet little empirical research exists to confirm this assumption. This research study examined the types of rationales cited in 799 cases of executive clemency from six states from 2005 to 2012. Rationales based upon retributive philosophies, in which a miscarriage of justice was cited, were further analyzed. This analysis revealed that only seven percent of all clemency decisions from the examined states cited retributive rationales. Of the fifty-six grants of clemency that cited retributive rationales, most were granted in the forms of pardons. The analysis indicated that executive clemency is utilized as a mechanism to correct injustices, specifically in cases of innocence. This study concludes with a discussion of policy implications and the reliance on executive clemency as a fail-safe to the criminal justice system.

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  • May 2013

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  • Feb. 1, 2014, 6:14 p.m.

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  • Nov. 16, 2016, 2:37 p.m.

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Gibbs, Gina N. Is There Justice in Mercy? the Retributive Philosophies of Executive Clemency, thesis, May 2013; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc271818/: accessed November 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .