MTPR

House Votes To Give Governor Power To Grant Clemency

Jan 28, 2015

Rep. Margaret (Margie) Macdonald (D) HD51
Credit Montana Legislature

The Montana House Wednesday overwhelmingly voted to give the governor the power to grant clemency, even if the board of Pardons and Parole disagrees.

Billings Democrat Margie Macdonald says it’s not fair that the Board can block a clemency request from going to the governor.

“Montana is only one of only eight states where the board has so much power, and can prevent the governor from addressing a case should he or she feel it has merit.”

One of the few voices against the bill was Steve Fitzpatrick, a Great Falls Republican who said it would turn a clemency process into a way for the governor to grant political favors.

“We’re gonna get decisions rendered by the governor because they’re politically popular or because people are politically connected. I don’t think that’s fair. Our system of justice is supposed to be blind. It’s not supposed to be for those who are politically connected or politically powerful,” Fitzpatrick said.

The majority disagreed, approving the bill on an 86-to-14 vote.

The bill grew out of the case of Barry Beach, a convicted murderer who claims he’s innocent, and was denied a chance for clemency.