Lifers seeking clemency in wake of US ruling

September 3, 2009 9:06:25 AM PDT
The state Board of Pardons will hear its first cases for clemency since a judge ruled that thousands of Pennsylvania inmates serving life terms should have an easier path to commutation. Two inmates will appear before the pardons board Thursday, but they face steep odds: Only three life sentences have been commuted since 1997.

A 1997 amendment to the state constitution requires lifers to get a unanimous vote of the five-member pardons board before the governor may consider their commutation request. Before then, lifers needed only a majority vote.

A June 11 ruling by U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo says the pardons board may not apply the tougher 1997 standard to inmates who committed their crimes before 1997.