Originally published at http://www.politicsunlocked.com
Exercise of presidential power to commute controversial sentences.
President George Bush ended the imprisonment of two former federal border guards, Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, convicted in the 2005 shooting of an unarmed drug dealer as he fled across the Mexican border.
Each man had been sentenced to more than a decade in prison, not only for the shooting, but also for covering up their actions, tampering with evidence and filing false reports.
Implications for Border Enforcement
The trial and subsequent convictions in 2006, unleashed a wave of controversy as supporters of the men argued that they were too harshly, or wrongly punished for seriously injuring the illegal-alien drug runner. During a period when many in the border states demanded stricter border enforcement, advocates for the men saw the prosecutions as protecting illegal immigration and punishing aggressive border enforcement.
Law Enforcement and the Use of Deadly Force
The lead prosecutor in the case, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, rejected sympathy saying that the law does not allow the use of lethal force against someone fleeing, unless the lives of the officers or the public are put in danger.
“These agents shot someone whom they knew to be unarmed and running away,” said Sutton.
Were the sentences too harsh as some have argued? Should President Bush have overridden the judge’s discretion and given the men their freedom?
In commuting Compean’s and Ramos’ sentences, rather than giving each a full pardon, Bush has seen that the men will soon be released from prison, but will still be responsible for fines and meeting probation obligations.