Originally created 03/15/04

A pardon is a pardon

With Godfather of Soul James Brown awaiting trial on criminal domestic violence charges, South Carolina's Probation, Parole and Pardon Services is under fire for granting the entertainer a pardon last May for his previous crimes.

Some legislators are so exercised at Brown's latest brush with the law that they're considering legislation to have pardons vacated for those who get into criminal trouble after the pardon is granted. House Minority Leader James Smith, D-Columbia, is planning a bill to allow courts to consider past pardon convictions, which the current law disallows.

Whenever something controversial happens, there's often a rush to "fix it" with a new law. But Palmetto State lawmakers have enough on their plate without worrying about long-established pardon policies that couldn't be that bad, because until the recent Brown arrest no one seemed unhappy with them.

At worst, the Brown pardon was a mistake that won't likely be repeated. The pardons board, perhaps bedazzled by the celebrity and charisma of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, ignored the advice of prosecutors, police officers and its own investigator, all of whom opposed the pardon. In retrospect, they may have been right, though it's only fair to point out Brown has not yet been proven guilty of anything since his pardon.

The best antidote to an overly generous pardon policy is to issue them sparingly - and only after a thorough investigation. For the most part, this is South Carolina's policy. The Brown pardon was not the rule; it was an aberration.


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