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The following List of people pardoned or granted clemency by the President of the United States documents the most prominent cases of each presidency. As granted by the Constitution (Article II, Section 2, Clause 1), Presidents have the power to grant clemency in one or more of the following ways: the ability to grant a full pardon, to commute a sentence, or to rescind a fine. U.S. Presidents have no power to grant clemency for crimes prosecuted under state law.
As to the difference between a pardon and a commutation:
A pardon is an executive order vacating a conviction.
A commutation is the mitigation of the sentence of someone currently serving a sentence for a crime pursuant to a conviction, without vacating the conviction itself.
Approximately 20,000 pardons and clemencies were issued by U.S. presidents in the 20th century alone. The records of acts of clemency were public until 1934. In 1981 the Office of the Pardon Attorney was created and records from President George H. W. Bush forward are now listed. This list includes pardons and commutations.
Democratic-Republican President Thomas Jefferson pardoned, commuted or rescinded the convictions of 119 people during his term. Among them is:
David Brown – convicted of sedition under the Sedition Act of 1798 because of his criticism of the United States federal government, receiving the harshest sentence of anyone; pardoned along with all violators of the act
Democratic President Andrew Jackson pardoned, commuted or rescinded the convictions of 386 people during his term. Among them is:
George Wilson – convicted of robbing the United States mails. Strangely, Wilson refused to accept the pardon. The case went before the Supreme Court, and in United States v. Wilson the court stated: "A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it is rejected, we have discovered no power in this court to force it upon him." As such, Wilson was not released from prison early.
Democratic President Andrew Johnson pardoned about 7,000 people in the "over $20,000" class by May 4, 1866. More than 600 prominent North Carolinians were pardoned just before the election of 1865. President Andrew Johnson pardoned, commuted or rescinded the convictions of 654 people during his term. Among them are:
Confederate soldiers – unconditional amnesty to all Confederates on Christmas Day 1868; earlier amnesties requiring signed oaths and excluding certain classes of people were issued both by Lincoln and by Johnson. Among them were:
Democratic President Woodrow Wilson pardoned, commuted or rescinded the convictions of 2,480 people during his term. Among them are:
George Burdick – a New York newspaper editor, who had refused to testify in federal court regarding the sources used in his article concerning the collection of customs duties. He pled the 5th amendment; President Wilson then granted him a full pardon for all of his federal offenses, which he refused. He continued to plead the 5th, at which he was sentenced by a federal judge for contempt. It was then that the Supreme Court reinforced the necessity of accepting a pardon to be valid; the federal judge had imprisoned Burdick on the grounds that he was claiming falsely his need for protection against self-incrimination.
Frederick Krafft – convicted for alleged violation of the Espionage Act. Only person convicted under this law to receive a full executive pardon.
Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower pardoned, commuted or rescinded the convictions of 1,157 people during his term. Among them is:
Maurice L. Schick – military court-martial for brutal murder; death sentence commuted to life imprisonment, with the condition that he would never be released. Legal challenge went to the Supreme Court, questioning the constitutionality of the punishment "Life Imprisonment Without Parole". Decided in Schick v. Reed that to be so sentenced was constitutional. He was not paroled.
Armand Hammer – CEO of the Occidental Petroleum Company, contributed $110,000 to the Republican National Committee just prior to his pardon. Pardoned for illegally contributing $54,000 to Richard Nixon's presidential campaign in 1972.
Joseph Occhipinti – Federal drug agent convicted of violation of civil rights, perjury and depravation of rights. Commuted.
Mel Reynolds – Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives.
Henry O. Flipper – The first black West Point cadet was found guilty of "conduct unbecoming an officer" in 1882.
John Deutch – Director of Central Intelligence, former Provost and University Professor, MIT
Rick Hendrick – NASCAR Team Owner & Champion; convicted of mail fraud; pardoned
FALN – commuted the sentences of 16 members of FALN, a violent Puerto Rican terrorist group that set off 120 bombs in the United States, mostly in New York City and Chicago. The 16 were convicted of conspiracy and sedition and sentenced with terms ranging from 35 to 105 years in prison.
^p. 34, Vallandigham, Clement Laird. The Trial Hon. Clement L. Vallandigham by a Military Commission: and the Proceedings Under His Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Circuit Court of the United States for the Southern District of Ohio. Cincinnati, OH: Rickey and Carroll, 1863.