Colorado governors use clemency frequently

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DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s governors use their powers of clemency often, but the circumstances vary wildly.

Gov. Jared Polis said he will consider clemency in the case of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos within the next 14 days. Supporters of Aguilera-Mederos – the truck driver behind the wheel of a crash that killed four in 2019 – said his sentence of 110 consecutive years is harsher than necessary for what amounts to a tragic accident.

Polis is no stranger to his powers to issue clemency with either a commutation, which reduces a sentence, or a pardon, which erases the sentence entirely.

In the last three years, Polis has issued 30 individual pardons from prisoner requests, in addition to over 2,700 pardons for marijuana crimes and three commutations of the now-abolished death sentence.

Polis grants clemency in only a small portion of cases.

The Office of Executive Clemency has received 171 pardon applications and 205 commutation applications through Polis’ tenure as governor, according to his office.

In that time, he has granted 23 pardons and seven commutations. In addition, he pardoned over 2,700 sentences of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and commuted the now-abolished death penalties of three prisoners.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper was more active with clemency throughout his term. In 2017 and 2018 he granted 156 pardons and 18 commutations.

Aguilera-Mederos’ advocates are speaking of a commutation, rather than a pardon. Polis has granted more commutations to non-violent crimes, so far.

Only two of his commutations have involved violent crimes, both with unique circumstances. Erik Jensen was convicted of murder when he was a juvenile before the U.S. Supreme Court ended such sentencing for minors. Polis commuted the sentence of Abron Arrington, another convicted murderer, who received a longer sentence than others involved in the crime.

Aguilera-Mederos’ case would be its own unique case, both in its violent yet accidental nature and in the fact that Aguilera-Mederos has not yet served any years of his prison sentence.

In the governor’s violent and non-violent crime commutations, time played a large role. So far, Polis only granted commutations to prisoners who had already served many years and in many cases decades of their sentences.

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