Pubdate: Thu, 27 Dec 2007
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2007 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
Note: The Journal does not publish LTEs from writers outside its 
circulation area


People like Gary Don Holt should be able to get out and do a little hunting.

Holt, of High Point, is, however, a convicted felon, and under 
current federal law, he can't even handle a gun legally unless he is 
pardoned for his 1986 marijuana-possession conviction. That should be 
easy, considering that Holt, a furniture warehouse supervisor, has 
been a good citizen since he broke the law as a 21-year-old and pleaded guilty.

That pardon, however, won't come from Gov. Mike Easley who, according 
to a recent story on The Associated Press wire, has denied all of 
Holt's requests for mercy. It's typical of Easley, who has pardoned 
only five former felons in his seven years in office. Former Gov. Jim 
Hunt, by comparison, pardoned more than 200 in his previous eight years.

Easley gets a great many requests for pardons, and he is probably 
justified in turning many of them down. Felony convictions are 
serious matters, and they carry lifetime consequences. One is that 
felons can't legally handle a gun. Another is that they lose the 
right to vote in many states, and to serve on juries. Employers are 
often reluctant to hire or promote them.

Laws as they are written in statutes, however, are often too rigid 
for the myriad of circumstances in which humans find themselves. 
That's why the governor has the power of the pardon. The chief 
executive is supposed to look at cases such as this and decide 
whether the system came down too harshly on an offender, considering 
circumstances. Or, whether something that has occurred since the 
conviction changes the situation.

The first thing we would have to question is whether people convicted 
20 years ago of simple marijuana possession should carry the full set 
of legal restrictions that are leveled against felons. North 
Carolina's laws have always been harsh in that regard.

The second thing is to consider a person's overall contribution to 
society since the conviction. Twenty years is a long time to keep 
paying for a crime of this nature when someone has been a strong 
member of the community.

Easley's reasoning for issuing so few pardons has not been explained. 
He not only refuses most pardons, he refuses to discuss why he 
doesn't grant pardons. That his record stands in such contrast to 
Hunt's - when Hunt was not soft on criminals - is disturbing, however.

As he enters his final year in office, Easley should consider using 
his authority to do what is just for some people. Holt is probably 
one of many who, on the merit of their circumstances, deserve a 
pardon and a chance to pursue all of the benefits of a society they 
have helped to build. He has paid for his crime, and he has 
contributed. It is time to be reasonable with him and, probably, some others. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake