Archive for January, 2017


President Obama’s clemency on Mississippi cases

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

My column this week looks at President Barack Obama’s clemency actions nationwide as well as in Mississippi. You can read it in the Madison County Journal here.

Below is a list of commutations and pardons granted by President Barack Obama for individuals convicted of crimes in a federal court in Mississippi. The individuals may not be Mississippians, and Mississippians convicted in federal court in other states are not listed. For a full list of President Obama’s commutations go here; for a full list of pardons go here.

COMMUTATIONS

Charles Lee Parker

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; January 25, 2006

Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 262 months’ imprisonment

Charles Edward Price

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; June 3, 2008

Sentence: 292 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; $1,500 fine

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on May 19, 2017 and unpaid balance of $1,500 fine remitted

Safarra Kimmons

Offense: 1. Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing cocaine base; 2. supervised release violation (Distribution in excess of 50 grams of cocaine base)

District/Date: Northern District of Mississippi; October 8, 2009

Sentence: 240 months’ imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on January 17, 2019, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment

Malcolm Hartzog

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance; possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; March 3, 2005

Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 360 months’ imprisonment.

Stanley Knox

Offense: Continuing criminal enterprise; distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; use of a communication facility to facilitate distribution of cocaine base (seven counts); attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine; possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine base (two counts); distribution of cocaine base within 1,000 feet of a high school (two counts); use of a communication facility to facilitate the attempted distribution of cocaine base (two counts)

District/Date: Northern District of Mississippi; April 12, 1996

Sentence: Life imprisonment; eight years’ supervised release; $2,000 fine

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 360 months’ imprisonment.

Dewayne Damper

Offense: Possession with intent to distribute “crack” cocaine base

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; May 12, 2004

Sentence: 360 months’ imprisonment; eight years’ supervised release; $4,500 fine (April 20, 1999); amended to 360 months’ imprisonment; six years’ supervised release; $4,500 fine

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on March 22, 2017.

Darrius Lewis

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; May 20, 2005

Sentence: 262 months’ imprisonment; three years’ supervised release

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 188 months’ imprisonment.

Charles Harrison

Offense: Possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1)

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; October 25, 2007

Sentence: 262 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; $1,500 fine

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on August 30, 2018, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment, leaving intact and in effect the five-year term of supervised release with all its conditions and all other components of the sentence.

Robert L. Matthews

Offense: 1. Distribution of cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B); possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B); 2. Supervised release violation (possession with intent to distribute cocaine base, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1))

District/Date: 1. Northern District of Mississippi; June 13, 1997; 2. Western District of Tennessee; September 30, 1998

Sentence: 1. 280 months’ imprisonment; eight years’ supervised release; 2. 15 months’ imprisonment (consecutive)

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on December 1, 2016, leaving intact and in effect the eight-year term of supervised release with all its conditions and all other components of the sentence

Cintheia Denise Parra

Offense: Possess with intent to distribute in excess of 500 grams of methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) & 841(b)(1)(A)

District/Date: Northern District of Mississippi; September 21, 2006

Sentence: 235 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; amended to 188 months’ imprisonment (March 18, 2015)

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on September 2, 2016, leaving intact and in effect the five-year term of supervised release with all its conditions and all other components of the sentence.

Exdonovan Peak

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 846

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; February 13, 1997

Sentence: 365 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; $12,000 fine

Terms of grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2016, and unpaid balance of the $12,000 fine remitted, leaving intact and in effect the five-year term of supervised release with all its conditions and all other components of the sentence.

PARDONS

Jimmy Wayne Pharr

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute marijuana; possession with intent to distribute marijuana; use of a communication facility to arrange delivery of marijuana (two counts) (Northern District of Mississippi)

Sentence: Six months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release (February 2, 1990)

Tietti Onette Chandler, aka Tietti Chandler-Shelton

Offense: Embezzlement of mail matter by a postal employee

District/Date: Northern District of Mississippi; April 1, 1999

Sentence: Three years’ probation, conditioned upon the performance of 150 hours of community service

Bobby Joseph Guidry, aka Bob Guidry

Offense: Conspiracy to import marijuana; conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana

District/Date: Southern District of Mississippi; March 4, 1988

Sentence: Three years’ imprisonment; five years’ probation; $1,000 fine


Partisan Judicial Elections?

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Mississippi House Speaker Pro-Tem Greg Snowden (R-Meridian) filed a bill this year to return Mississippi judicial election to partisan elections (HB496) as they were prior to 1994.

Jimmie Gates writes about the bill in the Clarion Ledger:

Under House Bill 496, candidates for judicial offices would have to list party affiliation and run in party primaries.

Snowden said he is trying to level the field for judicial candidates because they now run only in the general election in November. He said if there are more than two candidates and no one gets a clear majority of the votes, there will likely be a runoff.

“No one wants to come out and vote during the Thanksgiving week,” Snowden said of the typical date for a judicial runoff election.

Snowden said his legislation also would raise the profile of judicial elections. He said most judicial contests are down-ballot races, often leading to a drop in ballots cast.

“This isn’t about Republican or Democrat,” Snowden said.

According to the Associated Press, the bill was tabled:

The House Judiciary A Committee, on a split voice vote on Tuesday, tabled House Bill 496 .

Democrats question whether the change would provide an advantage to Republicans in judicial elections. State Supreme Court Justice Jim Kitchens, a former Democrat, won re-election in the Central District last year against a Republican-endorsed opponent.

Justice Jim Kitchens won reelection in 2016 in the Central District. Had it been a partisan race, the outcome may have been closer, but the district still leans Democrat. Democrat Hillary Clinton won the Central District in 2016 with 51.3 percent of the vote over Republican Donald Trump. When Kitchens first won in 2008, the Central District also went to Democrat Barack Obama with 52.4 percent over Republican John McCain. That year there was also a special US Senate race which was “nonpartisan” and Ronnie Musgrove carried the Central District in his challenge against Roger Wicker with 51.8 percent. But in the regular US Senate race that year Republican Thad Cochran carried the district over Democrat Erik Fleming with 53.8 percent.

Even under partisan elections, the Central District would still be competitive. Democrats would still have the advantage. I think a more interesting study would be to see how partisan elections would shake out in circuit, chancery and county court races across the state.

Other questions to contemplate:

  • Would candidates in some area run as independent either out of principle or to avoid a primary?
  • Would heavy Democratic districts see a greater increase in African American judges as a result of partisan elections and increase the diversity of our judiciary?
  • Would “Tea Party” politics push Republican judges further to the right in conservative areas?

Judicial candidates should not be forced to run under partisan labels; there should also be the opportunity to run as an independent. But judicial candidates should be free to associate themselves with a political party; and a political party should be free to gather together - whether in a caucus or a primary - and choose a nominee. But, the measure appears to be tabled for this year. Still, Snowden’s proposition deserves additional consideration.


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