Commuting a sentence or Pardoning a convicted felon…

Should the President of the United States be able to commute a convicted felon’s prison sentence?  Should the President of the United States have the power to pardon a convicted felon?

These are two interesting questions.  And recent events regarding the commutation of a jail sentence by the U.S. President, have brought to light, perhaps, the necessity for reform in both the Justice Department as well as certain powers available to the President of the United States via the Executive Branch. 

Under Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, the President “shall have the power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in case of impeachment.”  The word reprieves as defined by Webster is “to postpone or cancel the punishment.”  Furthermore, Webster’s legal definition of the word commutation is, “reduction of a penalty to a less severe one.”  Therefore, if a President commutes a convicted felon’s prison sentence, he or she is reducing the sentence handed out by a judge or jury to anything less than the minimum sentence, including no sentence at all.

Now think about this for a minute.  A person was convicted in a United States court of law by prosecutors preventing evidence that a person broke the law.  That evidence is reviewed by the judge and either allowed or disallowed.  If it is allowed, it means the jury will upon closing arguments, review that evidence.  Remember also, in order for a jury to come back with a guilty verdict, it means all twelve jurors must agree the evidence was so overwhelming that everyone on the jury voted the defendant guilty of the charge.

So why would a President ever commute a prison sentence of a convicted felon?  This is a good question.  If we had lawyers in the room, most likely they could come up with some possible scenarios whereby the commutation of a prison sentence might be in order.  However, what if the convicted felon could be a key witness in a possible future trial against a sitting/former President?  Do you think the President should have the power to either commute or if the convicted felon is in jail serving his sentence, pardon him/her? 

This is one area where reform is necessary to modernize the federal government.  For starters, the Justice Department, especially the attorney general of the United States must be a political and independent of the Executive Branch.  This would enable the Justice Department to apply the laws of the land equally no matter who is charged for an offense.  There should be either no or little Presidential interference, thereby resulting in a lighter sentence or even charges being dropped for a convicted felon.

If there is to be equal justice for all in the United States, we must consider major reforms to both a President’s executive power and the Justice Department.  Below are some ideas to ponder.  Feel free to comment on or to offer your own ideas!    

  • The President of the United States cannot commute a sentence handed down by a jury or pardon a convicted felon serving time in a federal prison if the criminal in question had anyone to do with an investigation of a sitting President.
  • A President cannot pardon a person serving time in jail for a crime unless the convicted felon has served the minimum of their sentence and has been recommended to the President for a pardon by the pardon process.
  • Once confirmed, the Attorney General (A.G.), along with the Justice Department will function independent of the President of the United States for a period of eight years or until the A.G. is removed from office by Congress.  Furthermore, the A.G. will be a political, meaning they will not favor the President, or his party while in office.  There will be no political lawyering so to speak for any political party.  This is essential if we want our Justice Department to uphold the laws of the land for all people of the United States of America.
  • No person can be above the law!
  • It will be the responsibility of the A.G., with the help of the Justice Department to bring charges against anyone in the United States, including the President, while in office or anyone in the government, if they have evidence, he/she violated a U.S. law(s) or international law(s).

For more information and ideas on reforming both the Executive Branch and the Justice Department, refer to A Call To Reform.  If you don’t own a copy of the book, you can order one on the home page of this website.  It’s an easy read and packed full of reform ideas.  Thank you for caring and for your input.


  1. Excellent insight and incredible how currently relevant the content of the book is and how well it applies.

    I feel the opening paragraph of the section on judiciary branch reform applies exceptionally well here. In a country that supposedly heralds the law the rampant politicization of the specific case in question inherently muddies the waters. If the justice department in general was independent of the executive branch then the case itself would have been able to have been viewed through a non biased lens and the question of whether the law was broken or not could have simply been answered and a punishment handed down.

    Because of the proximity of the defendant personally to the president, and then therefore the direct association to his political party, a rally cry was set out as if this man was unjustly persecuted and the result is a portion of the populous not questioning the commutation.

    If the president can simply save all of his buddies from the prosecution of law and if their acts play into a larger picture of law breaking by the administration how can this process ever be trusted to hold an executive official accountable for potential breaches of the law?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.