September 2011

Posted by on Aug 30, 2011 in Blog, Clemency Blog | 0 comments

September 2011

The September edition of Reggie Garcia’s blog on executive clemency, parole and criminal justice issues in Florida.

September 1, 2011 — It has been a very busy 6 months in Fla. on these matters:

In March the Gov. and Cabinet serving as the “Board of Executive Clemency” unanimously adopted new rules w/ new eligibility periods and other important changes — the new rules affect all pending and future applications.

In May my legal article explaining these new rules was published in the Florida Defender magazine by the Fla. Assoc. of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

In June I attended the FACDL’s annual convention in Palm Beach and met w/ judges, former prosecutors and defense lawyers.

While in South Fla. I visited a client @ Okeechobee state prison. As usual, the inmate is a “good kid from a good family” but started w/ drug use and property crimes then he escalated to more serious felonies. He is doing great and will be out in several years.

This prison visit was probably my 15th as a lawyer (also did several more as a political advisor on official tours) but this was the first time I saw an inmate walk out in civilian clothes for his “end of sentence.”

On June 21 Gov. Scott approved CS/SB 146 by Sen. Chris Smith (D-Oakland Park, Fla.) to help felons get state licenses and jobs even if their civil rights have not been restored, unless the desired license is “directly related” to the conviction (2011-207, LOF). AG Pam Bondi and the FCBSLs were very instrumental in its passage. This very good law is named after the late former Sen. President Jim King of Jacksonvile.

In July Sen. Gary Siplin (D-Orlando) hosted another jobs fair and his staff distributed my clemency legal article to help felons understand the new rules. I was honored to speak at this event several years ago where employers attend and actually offer real jobs to former inmates.

In July I visited Cross City state prison to prepare a pro bono client serving life for an upcoming parole hearing. Terrible crime facts but he’s been a model inmate for 20+ years.  Please note Fla. abolished parole in 1983 for all crimes except capital murder, and in 1995 for those crimes. Recent proposed legislation has explored a return to parole for juvenile crimes.

In August I visited Polk state prison to interview a prospective client serving life. He was barely 18 when the crime was committed. While in Lakeland I met the husband of an inmate serving 15 years for driving under the influence of prescription meds.

While in Orlando I met w/ a Barry Law professor who was instrumental in the recent USSC Graham case. He now is training law students and pro bono lawyers to help inmates serving life for crimes other than murder committed as juveniles get their sentences reduced.

Reviewed the list of 145 inmates released in the last 30 years by 6 governors. Known as a “commutation of sentence” this is the hardest type clemency to obtain.

In August the St. Pete Times and Channel 27 ABC-TV interviewed and quoted me in stories about the recent Fla. Parole Comm. study on restoration of civil rights. It showed 89% of these felons who obtained RCRs in 2009 and 2010 did not re-offend so I think clemency is working.

On August 23d  the Tallahassee Democrat published my clemency op-ed; many thanks. It was posted on Facebook and generated many calls and emails.

I met w/ an FSU law professor to discuss pro bono work on a pending clemency case and a post -Graham juvenile re-sentencing hearing.

Prepared and filed a “Petition to Expunge” arrest records in circuit court.  A college student was arrested for underage drinking. Since this was his first arrest he completed “diversion” (he paid a big fine + did 15 hrs. of community service. + committed no new crimes) and so the case was dismissed. Sealing and expunction are very different than clemency.  Fla. law creates very specific criteria and many crimes are not eligible. The prosecutor, FDLE and judge all must approve an expunction.

UPCOMING CASES AND EVENTS:

On Sept. 14th I present my first time to the Fla. Parole Comm. to represent pro bono an inmate serving life. As a clemency lawyer for 17 years I have closely worked w/ commissioners who make advisory recommendations and investigators that prepare the “confidential case analysis.”

Sept. 15 – 17th in Tampa the FCBSLs hosts its regional Issues Conference. This event attended by state legislators, state agency heads, and advocates is always a good discussion of criminal justice and other public policy issues. I have been honored to speak at these past events in Miami, Tampa, St. Pete and Tall.

While in Tampa Bay I plan to visit Hillsborough C.I., a female state prison in Riverview, to interview a prospective client.

On Thursday, Sept. 22nd @ the state Capitol a quarterly clemency mtg. will be held by the Gov. and Cabinet. There is no better way to learn about clemency than to see felon-applicants, lawyers, victims, law enforcement, the FPC chair and character witnesses discuss actual cases and take questions. Most cases are decided during the meeting but the Gov. often takes a few “under advisement” for further review.

Comments or questions are encouraged and may be discussed in future blog updates.

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