Dafna Linzer's investigative report in ProPublica about prisoner Clarence Aaron, and the mishandling of his commutation request by the man who still heads the U.S. Pardon Attorney's office, caught our eye when it was published just over a week ago. But it wasn't just the way that Ronald Rodgers "torpedoed" Aaron's already-slim chances; that was insult to injustice, in a manner of speaking.
Aaron has been serving three life sentences since the early nineties for a minor drug crime, his first offense -- and was neither the buyer, not the user, nor the seller of the drugs involved in his case. Linzer led off her appearance in #nerdland last Sunday by saying that Aaron was a "symbol of the excesses of the drug war."
The organization Families Against Mandatory Minimums released a statement about the Aaron case one day after Linzer's report, calling for Congressional review of the U.S. Pardon Attorney's office, which they alleged is in the business of "willfully misrepresent[ing] the facts of commutation requests to the President and contribut[ing] to a racial imbalance among pardon recipients.
Yesterday, FAMM was joined in that request for Congressional action in a letter signed by more than three dozen organizations, including the ACLU and NAACP. The letter was sent to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and its ranking Republican member, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA):
It is time for action. We urge you to investigate the activities of the OPA since at least 2001 and to hold an oversight hearing as soon as possible to review the serious questions that have been raised in these news reports.
This Thursday, FAMM will hold a briefing at the National Press Club intending to bring further scrutiny to Aaron's case -- and in addition to Linzer, the panel will feature Aaron's mother, Linda. While this attention is more directed at the Pardon Attorney, it's clear that Clarence Aaron and Linzer's report about him are the catalyst. It's hard to imagine that if action is taken, he and his plea for commutation wouldn't benefit. We'll keep you posted as things develop.