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Related to executive clemency: amnesty


in law, exemption from punishment for a criminal conviction granted by the grace of the executive of a government. A general pardon to a class of persons guilty of the same offense (e.g., insurrection) is an amnestyamnesty
, in law, exemption from prosecution for criminal action. It signifies forgiveness and the forgetting of past actions. Amnesties are usually extended to a group of persons during a period of prolonged disorder or insurrection.
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. A pardon (at least in the United States) absolutely terminates criminal liability, including any restrictions that result from a criminal conviction (though the pardoned person is not exonerated from the civil liability that a crime may have incurred). A pardon is thus to be distinguished from alleviation of punishment (such as commutation of sentencecommutation of sentence,
in criminal law, reduction of a sentence for a criminal act by action of the executive head of the government. Like pardon, commutation of sentence is a matter of grace, not of right; it is distinguished from pardon, however, in that the conviction of
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, reprieve, and paroleparole
, in criminal law, release from prison of a convict before the expiration of his term on condition that his activities be restricted and that he report regularly to an officer.
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), which does not nullify the conviction and all of its effects. The Constitution of the United States gives the president power to grant reprieves and pardons for all federal crimes, but he may not release a person from the effects of impeachmentimpeachment,
in Great Britain and United States, formal accusation issued by a legislature against a public official charged with crime or other serious misconduct. In a looser sense the term is sometimes applied also to the trial by the legislature that may follow.
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; pardons issued by the president are unreviewable. In most of the states the governor has nearly the same power in respect to state crimes. Usually, the governor may not pardon those convicted of treason or criminal contempt of court. In canon law the pardon is the absolution granted in penancepenance
, sacrament of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Eastern churches. By it the penitent (the person receiving the sacrament) is absolved of his or her sins by a confessor (the person hearing the confession and conferring the sacrament).
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; in the Middle Ages the word was used commonly to mean an indulgenceindulgence,
in the Roman Catholic Church, the pardon of temporal punishment due for sin. It is to be distinguished from absolution and the forgiveness of guilt. The church grants indulgences out of the Treasury of Merit won for the church by Christ and the saints.
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 (hence pardoner, a dispenser of indulgences).


The golden threads of forgiveness, pardon, and release weave in and out of the events commemorated during Holy Week. Pontius Pilate pardons Barabbas. Jesus forgives his tormentors and pardons the Good Thief (Luke 23:32-43). After his death Jesus releases the souls of the departed from captivity in the underworld (see also Descent into Hell). In addition, the early Christians quickly came to see Jesus' death itself as a sacrifice that offered both forgiveness and redemption to the whole human race.

In recognition of the importance of these themes to the spiritual message of the Easter festival, the early Christians pardoned and released criminals during Holy Week. St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407) mentioned this practice in his writings, drawing a parallel between these earthly pardons and Jesus' Descent into Hell, an event commemorated on Holy Saturday. St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-c. 394) recorded the fact that some Christians expanded the concept of the Easter pardon by freeing slaves at this time of year.

Centuries later French monarchs still granted an Easter pardon on Good Friday, releasing one prisoner whose crime was otherwise unpardonable. Some called this period of the year the "reign of Christ" in reference to the spirit of forgiveness evidenced in these kinds of actions. In the eleventh century the citizens of Aquitaine, a region of southwestern France, were expected to uphold the "truce of God" from the evening prayer service on Spy Wednesday until the morning of Easter Monday. The local laws imposed strict punishment on any who dared commit an act of violence or revenge during these holy days.

In a few countries Christians still observe the old tradition of granting Easter pardons (see also Forgiveness Sunday). In Colombia this custom is called the "Feast of the Prisoners" and is practiced on Maundy Thursday in the town of Popayán. On this day a small band of politicians, priests, and children, accompanied by the army band, march out to the local jail. There they prepare a banquet for the prisoners from the cartloads of food that they brought with them in the procession. After the feast, officials select one prisoner from among those who have served most of their sentence. For the rest of the day he sits on a street corner, under guard, while passersby offer him gifts of food and money. At evening time the guards set him free (see also Colombia, Easter and Holy Week in).

Further Reading

Griffin, Robert H., and Ann H. Shurgin, eds. Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Holidays. Volume 1. Detroit, MI: UXL, 2000. Monti, James. The Week of Salvation. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publications, 1993. Slim, Hugo. A Feast of Festivals. London, England: Marshall Pickering, 1996. Weiser, Francis X. The Easter Book. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1954.


1. Law
a. release from punishment for an offence
b. the warrant granting such release
2. a Roman Catholic indulgence
References in periodicals archive ?
Inmates, especially the sick and the elderly, had been hoping that an executive clemency would be given to them during the five-day papal visit.
Policy as an Indicator of "Original Understanding": Executive Clemency in the Early Republic (1789-1817), at 6-7 (Nov.
Taken together, all of these changes led to a significant reduction in the use of executive clemency.
pdf (indicating that between 2005 and 2009 Washington State's Governor granted full pardons to three immigrants who faced deportation upon conviction of minor crimes); Governor Grants Executive Clemency to Carillo-Landeros, OREGON STATE ARCHIVES, Nov.
12) Executive clemency appears more promising on cursory examination: its flexible and broad nature allows the president and state governors to pardon or commute sentences at will, including those sentenced during the mandatory-injustice period.
While the cases discussed above seem to establish conclusively the broad scope of the President's pardoning power, the actual legal effect of executive clemency is less clear.
Even without formal limits, presidents and governors have sharply cut their use of executive clemency.
elect Charlie Crist (R) has taken a position favoring the automatic restoration of voting rights through the governor's executive clemency power.
Short [Assistant State's Attorney] to the Illinois State Board of Pardons, October 2, 1908, petition for commutation of the sentence to imprisonment for life of Andrew Williams, Executive Clemency Files, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Chicago Times-Herald, February 5, 1899.
They describe how the concept of borders affects executive clemency, sovereign prerogative and other dilemmas of American legality, how identity works with the concept of border in perceptions of race and sexuality as well as national origin or even lack thereof, how the definitions of American-controlled territory have changed and are changing, and how imperial sovereignty has become intertwined with global economies, human rights, energy supply, the prison nation abroad and even new readings of what constituted Eastern Bloc "escapees" in the Cold War.
When Discretion Transmutes into Discrimination: The Arizona Board of Executive Clemency and the Development of the Georges-Abeyie Petit Apartheid Social Distance Severity Scale
It must, however, point out that what is at issue in the present case is not whether executive clemency as an institution is or is not an integral part of the "existing laws and regulations of the United States", but whether the clemency process as practiced within the criminal justice systems of different states in the United States can, in and of itself, qualify as an appropriate means for undertaking the effective "review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence by taking account of the violation of the rights set forth in the Convention", as the Court prescribed in the LaGrand Judgment.

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