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Pardon Me?

I would normally not be in favor of allowing the feds to re-prosecute a case that has been decided in state court, but there are unique situations where the ‘dual sovereignty doctrine’ is being used to keep us safe and correct an injustice. So, what, in fact, is the dual sovereignty doctrine?

This is a legal concept that permits the federal government to prosecute an individual who has already been prosecuted in state court, without violating constitutional protections against double jeopardy, so long as the act is both a state and federal crime. Why do I raise this interesting legal issue today?

Because Patrick Baker, a convicted murderer, who has been roaming Kentucky streets since 2019, will soon roam no longer. Baker was convicted in state court of killing Donald Mills, a Knox County drug dealer. Baker’s motive for the crime was robbery; he murdered Mills to steal his money and drugs. Baker, posing as a United States Marshall, terrorized Mills’ pregnant wife and innocent children, holding them at gunpoint as he ransacked their home, searching for oxycodone pills.

Baker was tried and convicted of the 2014 murder and sentenced to 20 years behind bars. You might be wondering how a convicted murderer gets out of prison after serving only a year in prison. The answer is as simple as it is shocking: Politics.

In a blatant act of cronyism and reckless disregard for the safety of the citizens of Kentucky, then Republican governor Matt Bevin, as he prepared to leave office, pardoned Baker. Why? Because Baker’s family was politically connected to Bevin and once hosted a fundraiser for him. This is the same governor who exchanged tax giveaways for discounted real estate, skipped paying taxes, enriched his own company with a government handout, gave a friend a government job and a huge salary, paid a law firm a half a million dollars in taxpayer funds to investigate his political rivals, and issued no-bid government contracts to political cronies. Kentucky must be deeply grateful to current governor Andy Beshear for narrowly beating the former governor.

If you read between the lines of history, pardons should be infrequently used, limited to situations which allows a governor or president to ensure the stability of government or correct an injustice where, as Alexander Hamilton once put it, there is an “exception in favor of unfortunate guilt.” It is hard to imagine a cold-blooded murder, committed in front of the victim’s own family, being such an exception.

Baker’s attorneys sought to limit Baker’s new sentence to 19 years, the balance of the sentence wiped out by the Bevin pardon. U.S. District Court Judge Claria Horn Boom was having none of it—she denied the request and sentenced Baker to 42 years behind bars. Good for Judge Boom.

I’m not a fan of political pardons, Republican or Democratic. As I have indicated before in this space, I do not support infringements on the separation of powers. Judges and juries should determine guilt, innocence, and/or appropriate sentences under those parameters set by law . . . period . . . end of story.

I’m pleased that a murderer will once again be behind bars and elated that he received a longer sentence. I hope it establishes precedent for pardons in the future.

What do you think?

Mark M. Bello is an attorney and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series, ripped-from-the headlines, realistic fiction that speak truth to power and champion the rights of citizens in our justice system. These novels, dedicated to the social justice movement, are not only enjoyable, they educate, spark discussion and inspire readers to action. For more information, please visit Mark also hosts the Justice Counts podcast with Not Fake News editor & publisher Bob Gatty, presenting bi-weekly interviews focused on social justice.

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Bob Gatty
Bob Gatty
Jan 24, 2022

interesting piece, Mark. Political pardons should be banned. Period.

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