Vol. LIV No. 2

Forgiving the Unforgivable: Reinvigorating the Use of Executive Clemency in Capital Cases

Abstract:  Clemency, the power to reduce the sentence of a convicted criminal, has existed since ancient times. Yet, the use of this power in the United States has significantly declined in recent decades. The U.S. Supreme Court has called executive clemency “the fail safe” of the criminal justice system, and has determined that some minimal procedural safeguards apply in clemency proceedings. Lower courts, however, have failed to require any significant procedural safeguards in the clemency process. Because clemency plays a crucial function in the criminal justice system, this Note argues that states should enact both procedural requirements and substantive guidelines to ensure death row inmates receive due process.

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