On Wednesday, Governor Ritter has pardoned twenty adults who were convicted of misdemeanors or felonies, served their sentence and would like to be free of the collateral consequences of their criminal convictions. Most notable was the Reverend Leon Kelly, who was convicted of armed robbery in 1979, but became an ardent anti-gang activist after his release.
None of the pardons applied to people currently serving sentences, which are called commutations when the sentence is reduced, but the conviction is not wiped from someone's record. Other than Kelly, all of the offenses were either misdemeanors or non-violent offenses.
This is not the first time that Governor Ritter has granted pardon petitions during his four year tenure, but it is the only set of pardons announced by press release from his office in the period from 2007 (when he took office) to the present. He issued one pardon as an executive order without issuing an accompanying press release on September 17, 2008 for a nineteen year old attempted sale of narcotics conviction. But, I have not located any other cases in which Governor Ritter has used his pardon power while in office.
Most notably, Governor Ritter has not yet taken any action on any juvenile requests for clemency, despite having taken the high profile step of convening a Juvenile Clemency Board to advise him on the matter on August 29, 2007.
The Juvenile Clemency Board meets in secret and is reputed to have turned down at least eighteen applications so far.
Governor Ritter still could act, of course, any time before his term of office ends on January 11, 2011. The Christmas and New Year's season, particularly at the end of a term of office, is a customary time for a Governor to grant pardons and clemency petitions. Governor Ritter told a Fox News reporter early this month that he was reviewing a large stack of clemency petitions and that a handful of pardons had been granted earlier in his term (although I have found only one such example).
Governor Owens, Ritter's Republican predeccessor, granted just thirteen pardon requests in eight years in office, and so far as i know, none involved individuals who were currently incarcerated.