The state Constitution says, “No person hereafter convicted of [an] infamous crime, shall be eligible or capable of holding any office of trust or profit in this Commonwealth.”
“I can run, I can win, and citizens can elect me, but the state will not allow me to take oath. Who runs the law? I thought the Constitution was for the people and by the people, and the people have spoken,” Mitchell said.
The state Supreme Court has ruled that any felony is an “infamous crime.”
Mitchell appealed to Lawrence County Judge John W. Hodge last Friday, noting that he had applied for clemency with the state Board of Pardons. He asked the judge to dismiss or stay the state’s attempt at his removal until the board rules on his request. Hodge rejected his request within less than an hour of hearing his argument.
Voters who elected Mitchell are incensed by the decision. “They took his money and then when he wins, which I don’t think they expected him to, they won’t let him serve. That’s not right,” said the Rev. Linda Martinez. Indeed, such an denial of office flies in the face of rehabilitation and pushes an overly targeted group of people further away from participation in the democratic process. After all, 13 percent of adult African-American men like Mitchell are currently prevented from voting — let alone from holding office — because of a previous conviction.
Mitchell promised to pursue his right to serve: “It doesn’t make me bitter, but it does rile me up for a fight.”