The Joe Donovan Project


Executive Clemency

Prior to the Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama decision, Donovan’s only chance for release rested in a commuted sentence through Governor Duval Patrick’s Executive Clemency authority. (The term “clemency,” in this instance, does not mean a pardon, but rather refers to the scope of the Executive Branch’s powers). The Advisory Board of Pardons unanimously voted to deny Donovan’s commutation petition on June 21, 2010 and passed this recommendation along to the Governor.

This was hardly a surprise. Massachusetts last granted a commutation in 1997 — some 16 years ago —  despite hundreds and hundreds of petitions filed on behalf of state prisoners. The Governor’s Commutation guidelines clearly state that a commutation can be granted to redress a sentencing disparity especially when further incarceration would constitute “gross unfairness” in relation to the sentences served by the other defendants in the case. But two high-profile crimes committed by released inmates have led to an unofficial moratorium on ending sentences early in Massachusetts, even for the most compelling of cases.

Read more about why getting justified release from Massachusetts prisons is next to impossible.