According to ProPublica, white applicants are four times more likely to receive a presidential pardon than minorities, and African Americas have the least likelihood of success.
A subsequent story published in May recounted the saga of Clarence Aaron, a first-time offender sentenced in 1993 to three life terms in prison for his role in a drug conspiracy. In 2008, the pardon attorney recommended that President George W. Bush deny Aaron’s request for a commutation even though his application had the support of the prosecutor’s office that tried him and the judge who sentenced him. The pardon attorney, Ronald L. Rodgers, did not fully disclose that information to the White House.
The handling of Aaron’s case prompted widespread criticism that the pardon office — which has rejected applications at an unprecedented pace under Rodgers — is not giving clemency requests proper consideration.
Members of Congress, law professors, and civil rights advocates have all taken up Aaron’s case, and many have called for a broader investigation of the pardon process. Now, not only is Aaron’s case being reviewed, the DOJ has been directed to do an in-depth analysis of recommendations for presidential pardons.
“We are now getting in place the framework for a comprehensive, independent study,” said Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman. The department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics will contract with an independent firm to conduct the pardons study, Hornbuckle said, which “will examine how petitions for pardon are adjudicated and whether any discernible bias exists.”
The number of pardons granted by each president has fallen in recent terms. At 189, President Bush granted less than half the number of pardons that President Bill Clinton handed out in his two terms. And with less than six months to go in his first term, Obama has pardoned only 22 people.