The Detroit Free Press reports that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm has begun commuting the sentences of dozens of murderers, breaking the promises the state made to victims that their loved one’s killers would die behind bars.

Why is she doing this?  Well, why does any ambitious politician side with vicious killers and against the families they destroyed?

It’s edgy.  It lends a sort of cachet.  It attracts good press, the virgin’s blood of political aspiration.  If you’re a conservative Republican like Mike Huckabee, claiming to convert violent felons is a way to flaunt your compassion and evangelical credentials.  Of course, you only grab headlines if you’re taking on the really heinous felons, the murderers and rapists, (preferably, both).

If you’re a Huckabee, or a Sister Helen Prejean, you’re certainly not going to waste your time on small fish.  Where’s the challenge?  (Where’s the cameras?)  That’s why the most heinous offenders are the ones who receive the most post-conviction attention and sympathy.

And victims?  Victims are so outré.  Victims do nothing for your resumé.

Liberal prisoner advocacy is identical to compassionate conservatism prisoner advocacy, only there are fewer references to salvation, and there’s more of it.  The left-wing version of Huckabee’s mission to empty the prisons is, well, the left-wing mission to empty the prisons, period.  Do you need a reason to release a felon if you’re a liberal?  You release them simply because they’re there.

So what is Granholm’s particular angle? Why did she ramp up commutations last year?  Could it have to do with the Obama administration looking at her as a potential Supreme Court nominee?

Think of all those freed murderers as resumé padding for Granholm’s SCOTUS dreams.  An internship, if you will, for precisely what the current administration deems to be the important work of the Court:

After Granholm was re-elected in 2006, the administration stepped up efforts to put more cases in the commutation pipeline. In addition to the infirm, she has commuted dozens of drug sentences and released 15 foreign nationals set for deportation.

Releasing illegal immigrants (here, foreign nationals) who commit crimes, instead of deporting them?  Check.  Rolling back the penalties for drugs?  Check.  “Emptying the Prisons,” even if it means letting murderers and other violent felons walk free?  Check.


Incidentally, the Detroit Free Press article is impressively wry:

Former Gov. William Milliken, the last Michigan governor to issue a large number of commutations and an advocate for its continued use, got it right almost every time.Except for James Ellis, an elderly convicted killer freed by Milliken who, eight years after his release, slaughtered three people and critically wounded two more in a shooting spree at a Detroit church in 1982.

Or John McRae, who Milliken approved for commutation in 1971, releasing him from a life sentence for the sexual mutilation and slaying of an 8-year-old boy in St. Clair Shores.

McRae moved to Florida, where authorities say he was responsible for the disappearance and death of three adolescent boys in the 70s. He was convicted of first-degree murder a second time in Michigan after the body of a 15-year-old neighbor was found buried under his old driveway near Clare. He died in prison in 2005.

The reporter also pokes holes in Granholm’s hackneyed claim that commutations save money:

Granholm’s heightened commutation activity began almost exclusively with approvals for prisoners with medical conditions that left them terminally ill or debilitated. Often the rationale for those decisions has been financial. State taxpayers pay for sick inmates — on top of the cost of incarceration. But after they are released, the medical cost is usually borne by Medicaid, covered largely by federal dollars.

Of course it is.

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