While some previous Ohio governors announced clemency decisions as they headed out the door, Republican John Kasich has been quietly making decisions on more than 750 cases since early in his term.
Kasich has granted clemency – pardons, paroles, commutations or reprieves – to 50 of the 1,128 applicants before him and has yet to make a decision in 356 cases, according to documents released to the Dayton Daily News under Ohio’s public records laws. In 14 other cases some other event negated the need for clemency, such as death, prison release or court action.
So far, Kasich granted clemency in 6.6 percent of the cases decided.
The governor declined to comment on his clemency decisions through his press secretary Rob Nichols.
Kasich has not always followed the recommendation from the Ohio Parole Board when deciding clemency. In 65 cases where the board recommended clemency, Kasich denied it.
Kasich granted commutation to Kelly Bolar-Williams in September 2011 even though the parole board gave her pardon application a thumbs down. In a case that garnered national attention among advocates for school choice, Bolar-Williams was convicted in Summit County of records tampering for using her father’s address to send her children to a nearby school district.
In 2011 and 2012, the parole board did not hold any hearings on all 434 commutation applications it received and forwarded them to the governor with unfavorable ratings.
Kasich is more likely to grant pardons to women than men: 26 successful clemency applicants are women, even though women represent a smaller portion of offenders.
On Death Row, he commuted the death sentence to life without parole for four inmates.
The Ohio Constitution authorizes the governor to issue commutations or pardons. A commutation lessens the punishment for a crime and a pardon wipes it off the offender’s record.
In the Miami Valley, Kasich denied 88 applications, has yet to decide 32 applications and granted one pardon to Eric Sharps in a 1996 theft case in Greene County.
Kasich denied clemency to two Death Row inmates within the first two months of taking office and then began deciding more routine applications shortly after that, the records show. Since then, he has decided cases nearly every month during his governorship.
During his four years as governor from 2007 to 2011, Democrat Ted Strickland granted 160 clemency requests, or 22.9 percent of the 849 applications decided. Strickland decided one batch in November 2009 and the remainder on his last week on the job.
“Ted didn’t rule on any clemency applications for two-and-a-half years and it really gummed up the system,” said attorney Barry Wilford, who represents clients in clemency and parole cases. “When they hold them back, the whole system gets constipated.”
During his eight years as governor, Republican Bob Taft granted 77 clemency requests, or 5.7 percent of the 1,355 applications received and processed.
And in his final days in office in 1991, Democrat Richard Celeste sparked headlines when he commuted the sentences of eight Death Row inmates to life without parole and granted pardons for 25 women who blamed their crimes on battered women syndrome.
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