IN-DEPTH: Some call for changes to Minnesota's pardon process

December 13, 2018 06:38 PM

Minnesota's Board of Pardons meets twice a year to consider pardons for people previously convicted of crimes who have served their time and paid their penalties.

It's not easy to get one. Only 63 of the 178 people who have applied have been granted a pardon in the past five years.

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"The process is very strange," said Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

"The governor of the state. The attorney general. The chief justice. Sitting in open court and talking about the cases as they process them. That is probably not probably their highest and best use."

Osler is among those calling for a new system, possibly creating a board whose sole focus is considering pardons and making recommendations to the governor.

"Each applicant is entitled to consideration of their own circumstances and that's what we do," said Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, one of the three members of the Board of Pardons, and the only one who will be back next year.

Gov. Mark Dayton and Attorney General Lori Swanson are both leaving office in January and will be replaced by Gov.-elect Tim Walz and Attorney General-elect Keith Ellison.

Although Gildea hasn't voiced any major concerns with the current system, she's not opposed to reviewing it.

"We take each case one at a time, just like we do in the court system," she said before a board hearing on Thursday. "But that's not to say that we shouldn't reexamine. It's never wrong to put a fresh set of eyes to a process and see if it can be improved."

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Tom Hauser

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