In His Final Hours, Haslam Wrestles With Requests For Clemency | Nashville Public Radio

In His Final Hours, Haslam Wrestles With Requests For Clemency

Jan 18, 2019

One of the few remaining acts for outgoing Gov. Bill Haslam is to decide about 30 requests for clemency.

The Republican governor says he and staffers have been sorting through the applications, with the aim of consistency.

"But it's really hard, because if you've seen one of these, you've seen one of these," he said in a recent interview with WPLN. "So we're doing our best to be both fair and just, and to be, where appropriate, merciful, and to be consistent.

"And to do all of those things, to be honest with you, is really difficult."

Haslam has granted clemency to more than 20 people in his eight years in office. But he hasn't stepped into any of the three death penalty cases that have come across his desk. Haslam notes that capital punishment cases require juries to make a separate decision to execute, and those decisions are reviewed multiple times over the course of decades.

But he says he has fewer reservations about intervening in non-death penalty cases, which he views as determinations of whether sentences were fair. An example was is the Cyntoia Brown case, who's sentence he reduced from life in prison to 15 years.

"I wasn't stepping in to say, 'Was she guilty or not?'" Haslam says. "I think she has said that she was guilty. But it is appropriate to come back and review what was the sentence at that point in time."