Respite (law)

The pardon power of the United States Constitution has been broadly interpreted to include a variety of specific powers. Among those powers are: pardons, conditional pardons, commutations of sentence, conditional commutations of sentence, remissions of fines and forfeitures, respites and amnesties. [P.S. Ruckman, Jr. 1997. “Executive Clemency in the United States: Origins, Development, and Analysis (1900-1993),”27 "Presidential Studies Quarterly", 251-271]

Respites delay the imposition of sentence but in no way modify a sentence or address questions of due process, guilt or innocence. Historically, presidents have granted most respites for periods of 30 to 90 days and have renewed (extended) such delays when it seemed necessary. [Microfilm Set T967, National Archives] The most common public explanations for respites have been to:
* delay executions (for a variety of reasons)
* allow additional time to study clemency applications
* await the outcome of an appeal
* allow full executive review of a sentence affirmed in the appellate processWhile these have been the commonly stated reasons, it is important to understand that the Constitution in no way limits the circumstances of their use or the length of time involved ["Annual Report" of the Attorney General, 1890-1932]

According to the Office of the Pardon Attorney (U.S. Department of Justice), presidents have utilized respites to varying degrees although, as is the case with every other form of executive clemency, there has been something like a general decline since 1900. [] The Pardon Attorney has posted data for respites for some administrations. [ [ USDOJ: Office of the Pardon Attorney - Presidential Clemency Actions By Fiscal Year ] ]

Most recently, Bill Clinton delayed the execution of Juan Garza in order that an ongoing study of bias in the federal death-penalty system might be completed. ["Media Spotlight Dims as Garza Put to Death," "Houston Chronicle", June 20, 2001]


External links

* [ "Respite for Libby?"] , P.S. Ruckman, Jr., "National Review", June 14, 2007
* [ Pardon Power Blog]
* [ "Bush Faces `No-Win' Pressures to Pardon Convicted Cheney Aide"] , Edwin Chen, "Bloomberg", July 2, 2007

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