Right before former Gov. Matt Bevin left office in early December, he issued a number of controversial pardons that rightfully caused a lot of concern.

As the list of pardons became public, we learned there were rapists and murderers among those who Bevin pardoned. Many people, including us, were stunned and angered that Bevin would pardon people who had been convicted by a jury of their peers and sentenced for their very serious crimes, only to be released under his pardons.

In his capacity as governor, Bevin had the legal right to issue these pardons, but that doesn’t mean some in question were good ideas or make it any easier on the victims’ families.

We think the pardons were a slap in the face to the victims’ families, especially since no notice was given to any of them that he was pardoning those who raped or killed their loved ones. It was also a slap in the face to the prosecutors who help put these criminals away, since they were not notified by anyone in the administration that the pardons were being issued.

We don’t want to see this scenario unfold again in Kentucky, which is why we are glad there has been legislation introduced that would put new parameters on a governor’s pardon powers and ensure victims are notified before their assailants are given clemency.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Covington, has proposed a constitutional amendment that would put limits on a governor’s power to grant pardons or commute sentences. His measure would amend the state’s Constitution to strip a governor of pardon powers during the month leading up to an election and during the time between an election and the inauguration.

McDaniel made a very good point in announcing his proposal, that “if a governor wants to use the power to commute and pardon, he should be willing to stand in front of the voters and be held accountable for those actions.”

State Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R, Hopkinsville, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, weighed in on the issue by proposing that crime victims have the right to be notified and heard before their assailant gets any pardon or commutation. The language is included in a proposed ballot measure – known as “Marsy’s Law” – that would add multiple protections for crime victims to the state’s Constitution.

The new provision stemming from Bevin’s actions seeks to ensure victims have the right to be heard and notified when a governor considers granting a pardon or sentence commutation to their assailants.

Of course, these measures, if passed by both chambers, would have to be ratified by the state’s voters. These are very solid proposals that make good sense. If a governor is going to make some controversial pardons, as Bevin did, we believe the victims’ families deserve to know in advance.

It’s only fair and we believe that the majority of Kentuckians would agree with that as well. We are 100 percent behind these measures and are hopeful that they will be passed in the legislature and approved by the voters when they appear on the ballot.

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(1) comment

Enough Already

The legislation is a good idea and I support it but I wonder why no one including this paper has published the rationale behind each of the controversial pardons. Each case would have been examined independently of each other so there should be a written justification of why each pardon was issued. If this is not already required by law, it should be. At the very least it would make future governors think twice before issuing a pardon if they knew they had to justify it in writing. If this does not exist it should be added to this bill. We can wring our hands and whine, but how about some in depth investigation to determine what is behind the pardons?

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