Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles
The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles is a five-member panel authorized to grant paroles, pardons, reprieves, remissions, commutations, and to remove civil and political disabilities imposed by law. Created by Constitutional amendment in 1943, it is part of the executive branch of Georgia's government. Members are appointed by the governor to staggered, renewable seven-year terms subject to confirmation by the State Senate.
Each year the Board elects one of its members to serve as chairman. The current chairman is Terry E. Barnard, whose term on the Board began in May 2010 and will end on December 31, 2017. Barnard's tenure as chairman began on July 1, 2014.
Parole and clemency
The Board is the primary authority in Georgia assigned the power to grant pardons, paroles, and other forms of clemency. Parole is the discretionary decision of the Board to release a certain offender from confinement after he or she has served an appropriate portion of a prison sentence. Persons on parole remain under state supervision and control according to conditions which, if violated, allow for re-imprisonment.
Georgia is one of nine (9) states in the United States with a Board of Pardons and Paroles that exclusively grants all state pardons. Alabama (Board of Pardons and Paroles), Connecticut (Board of Pardons and Paroles), Idaho (Commission of Pardons and Paroles), Minnesota (Board of Pardons), Nebraska (Board of Pardons), Nevada (Board of Pardon Commissioners), South Carolina (Board of Probation, Parole and Pardon), and Utah (Board of Pardons and Paroles) are the other eight (8) states in the United States with similar state boards.
Clemency is given by the Board at its discretion. The Board has the sole constitutional authority to commute death sentences to either life imprisonment or life without parole. Georgia is one of the three states whose governor does not have the authority to grant clemency, although he retains indirect influence by virtue of his power to appoint Board members.
Troy Davis case
The Board is, on occasion, the subject of media attention when it reviews high-profile cases. One such occasion was the review of the case of Troy Anthony Davis, an African-American convicted in 1991 of murdering police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia.
The Board stayed Davis's scheduled July 17, 2007 execution, but refused to postpone further. The Supreme Court of the United States convened a hearing on the issue of a stay; deciding in favor, just two hours before the planned execution. However, on appeal, the Supreme Court denied certiorari, and allowed the State of Georgia to acquire a new execution warrant for Davis, with an execution date of October 27, 2008.
On October 24, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued a stay of execution, pending a decision on Davis's federal habeas corpus petition. This stay was later overturned.
In an August 2010 decision, the conviction was upheld. The court described defense efforts to upset the conviction as "largely smoke and mirrors" and found that several of the proffered affidavits were not recantations at all. Subsequent appeals, including to the Supreme Court, were rejected, and a fourth execution date was set for September 21, 2011. Nearly one million people signed petitions urging the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to grant clemency.
The Board denied clemency and, on September 21, it refused to reconsider its decision. After a last minute appeal to the United States Supreme Court was denied, the sentence was carried out through lethal injection on September 21, 2011.
The Fairness for Prisoners' Families organization has leveled heavy criticism at the Board and similar Georgia authorities, although it notes that the symptoms it criticizes may not necessarily be intentional.
In their 2012 report to the Georgia Criminal Justice Reform Council, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) noted the conviction of former Chairman of the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles Bobby Whitworth, who during the 2000 General Assembly session in Georgia accepted a $75,000 bribe from Detention Management Services, Inc. for influencing the passing of Senate Bill 474. This private probation legislation would have "effectively transferred supervision of approximately 25,000 misdemeanants from the State Department of Corrections to the individual counties." Private probation firms like DMS would have benefited greatly from potential individual county contracts. When Sentinel acquired Detention Management Services, Inc., their books showed the $75,000 as a lobbyist payment for passage of the legislation. The bill was withdrawn.
- History of Parole in Georgia. Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles.
- "Board Members". Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles.
- Lundin, Leigh (2011-10-02). "The Crime of Capital Punishment". Death Penalty. Orlando: SleuthSayers.
- "Not In Our Name: Georgia Must Not Execute Troy Davis". Amnesty USA. September 22, 2011. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- "Georgia Board Denies Clemency for Troy Davis". Fox News. September 20, 2011. Retrieved September 20, 2011.
- "georgia state board of pardons and paroles". Pap.state.ga.us. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- "Troy Davis Executed After Stay Denied". ABC News. September 22, 2011. Retrieved September 22, 2011.
- "Roadblocks to Reform: Perils for Georgia’s Criminal Justice System", Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) (Atlanta, GA), November 2012
- "Whitworth v. State", Court of Appeals of Georgia (A05A1340), 29 September 2005, pp. 23–24, retrieved 4 August 2014
- "2010 Annual Report on Form: 10-K", Corrections Corporation of America, 2010
- McWhirter, Cameron; Rankin, Bill (11 March 2009), "Lawmaker Writes Bill That Affects Own Private Probation Industry", Atlanta Journal Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia)