Bush pardons Richard Arthur Morse


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Harry Tuttle
November 29, 2004, 09:01 PM
A long journey from punishment to pardon
Airman is forgiven for car theft in 1963

By Mac Daniel, Globe Staff ?|? November 20, 2004

It was 1963, and Airman Richard Arthur Morse was 19 and on weekend leave. He had hitchhiked to Pensacola, Fla., to have some fun and walk the endless white beaches, but rides were scarce as he tried to get back to his Air Force base in Biloxi, Miss.

With just a few hours before he would be declared absent without leave, he spotted a 1958 light pink Cadillac with the keys in the ignition, and no one around.

Morse got in and turned the key.

It was a stupid move, one Morse regrets to this day. ''I should have kept walking," he said yesterday.

It also gave him a criminal record, until this week, when the government finally, officially forgave the 61-year-old electrician from Rowley.

''Among those pardoned Wednesday was Richard Arthur Morse of Rowley, Mass., who was sentenced to five months in jail in 1963 in Mississippi for interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle," said a brief national news item.

That was all it said.

''It doesn't tell anybody what happened," Morse said.

The stolen pink Cadillac ran out of gas in Alabama, and Morse was quickly picked up by a local policeman, who apparently had heard an all-points bulletin. The officer took him to a local gas station, where Morse said he contemplated running into nearby woods to escape.

''But my feet wouldn't move," he recalled. ''My mind wanted to go, but my feet wouldn't budge. And that's when I realized I just had to face this. I just had to face up to what I'd done."

He was taken back to his base.

The Air Force was kind to him, Morse said, giving him a general discharge under honorable conditions. But an Alabama judge sentenced him to five months in jail at a short-timers work camp, where Morse spent most of his time outdoors on a farm.

After doing his time, he returned to his native Lynn with a tan in the midst of a pale New England winter. After nearly five years on probation, Morse said, he never got in trouble with the law again, except for the occasional traffic ticket. He married, moved to Rowley, set up Morse Electric, and raised a family, his misdeed fading with each passing year.

But in 1998, Morse, a lifelong hunter, tried to buy his son his first shotgun. The new Brady Bill flagged Morse's criminal record, and the Maine gun dealership said no. ''I didn't think that was fair," said Morse, an avowed gun activist. ''It's almost like when your sentence is over, you still have this thing hanging around."

Thus began a six-year effort to clear his name, he said.

His character witnesses, including the principal of Triton Regional High School in Byfield, filled out questionnaires from the Department of Justice's Office of the Pardon Attorney nearly five years ago. Interviews with FBI agents followed. Every six months or so, Morse would call or write and inquire about his case, seemingly lost in the federal bureaucracy. He wrote his last letter to Justice Department officials in January. ''Basically, I kind of joked a little bit," Morse said. ''I was sort of getting exasperated. Basically, I guess I asked what does a pardon attorney do when he's not doing pardons."

Morse sent a similar letter to President Bush. ''I know last year you pardoned a turkey," Morse recalled writing. ''Now where am I compared to this turkey?"

The letter to the president made its way into Morse's folder, and Morse thought his case was nearly dead.

''I opened my mouth, but didn't really put my foot in it," he said. ''But that's me. I'm a very independent, outspoken person."

The only hint that the case was heading somewhere came Monday, when a Justice Department official called to verify some information. On Wednesday, in a ceremony dominated by Bush pardoning two turkeys named Biscuits and Gravy, Morse got his pardon.

His cellphone rang at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, with US Pardon Attorney Roger C. Adams on the other end.

Morse called his children and friends and announced his news, telling them he was worried that if he talked to the press, they would be embarrassed. They said they would not. ''My son said, 'Go for it,' " Morse said. He went back to work on Thursday.

''It's just a relief," he said. ''Just a small relief."

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2004/11/20/a_long_journey_from_punishment_to_pardon/

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Fletchette
November 29, 2004, 09:23 PM
I am glad to see that Bush pardoned this guy. This is what Presidential pardons are for (unlike how Klinton used them). It is especially refreshing to see that Bush would pardon him when the issue that started it all was the Brady denial. A bit of a political risk that would have scared aware other politicians.

Michigander
November 29, 2004, 09:38 PM
This is what Presidential pardons are for...

Flechette, would you care to elaborate?

shooten
November 29, 2004, 09:40 PM
That's a great story. There's probably quite a few people out there like him.

Scott

jsalcedo
November 29, 2004, 10:14 PM
I'm all about pardoning people who make a mistake and learn from it.

As long as the crime is non violent and the person has remained an upstanding citizen there is no reason they should be forever penalized.

Fletchette
November 29, 2004, 10:38 PM
Flechette, would you care to elaborate?

Sure. I was referring to Presidential pardons being used to pardon someone who has undergone excessive punishment. Yes, this guy commited a crime, but it was long ago and non-violent. Most people have done stupid things when they were young. Growing up means recognizing and learning from your screw-ups.

Contrast this pardon, which Bush risked some political repercussions from the gun-hating left, with Bill Clinton virtually selling pardons to egregious criminals (Mark Rich and the other "pardongate" benefiaries).

Michigander
November 29, 2004, 10:47 PM
I was referring to Presidential pardons being used to pardon someone who has undergone excessive punishment. Yes, this guy commited a crime, but it was long ago and non-violent. Most people have done stupid things when they were young. Growing up means recognizing and learning from your screw-ups.

The Air Force was kind to him [...] giving him a general discharge under honorable conditions. But an Alabama judge sentenced him to five months in jail at a short-timers work camp, where Morse spent most of his time outdoors on a farm.
Excessive punishment for stealing a car?

Fletchette
November 29, 2004, 10:55 PM
The excessive punishment of having one's unalienable rights repressed for decades thereafter.

Lone_Gunman
November 29, 2004, 10:56 PM
I would not have pardoned him. This idea that he was just a kid who needed some time to grow up is bogus. He was an adult.

I knew not to steal cars when I was 19, and he knew what he did was wrong.

I don't think his punishment was undue for stealing a car, and I think the Air Force was more than kind to him.

All that said, I think his civil rights should have been immediately restored long ago when he was released from prison. If a felon is a threat society, he should be kept in jail. If he is not a threat, then all his rights should be restored.

Fletchette
November 29, 2004, 11:03 PM
All that said, I think his civil rights should have been immediately restored long ago when he was released from prison. If a felon is a threat society, he should be kept in jail. If he is not a threat, then all his rights should be restored.

Exactly. Do your time, then get out and live as a law-abiding citizen. To keep repressing one's rights is to denigrate our society into a "class society" - some people have more rights than others.

Michigander
November 29, 2004, 11:33 PM
Lone Gunman made the point I was getting at.

It should not require a presidential pardon to "legally" enjoy your inalienable rights.

To me, it is a shame and a sham that this man needed a presidential pardon in the first place.

I do not agree that this is what presidential pardons are for.

Rumpled
November 30, 2004, 12:07 AM
Can Governors also pardon, or can they only commute sentences?
I'm sure it would vary by state, eh?

Fletchette
November 30, 2004, 01:05 AM
Lone Gunman made the point I was getting at.

It should not require a presidential pardon to "legally" enjoy your inalienable rights.

To me, it is a shame and a sham that this man needed a presidential pardon in the first place.

I do not agree that this is what presidential pardons are for.

Ideally, we wouldn't need a Presidential pardon to "legally" enjoy our rights, but I think it is good that Bush stepped in and set things right.

I am curious, what do you think Presidential pardons are for?

Ezekiel
November 30, 2004, 01:09 AM
I am curious, what do you think Presidential pardons are for?

With respect, "ask Gerald Ford."

Michigander
November 30, 2004, 01:10 AM
I am curious, what do you think Presidential pardons are for?

For offenses against the United States of America.

I don't believe a stolen car fits that bill.

Fly320s
November 30, 2004, 01:22 AM
I'm happy that Mr. Morse had his rights restored, but I am 100% against Presidential pardons at any time for any reason.

To me, a President who gives a pardon to someone is dabbling in the Court's domain. I strongly believe that the Judicial and Executive branches of the Fed. Gov. should operate independantly of each other; at least as much as they can.

Regardless of what laws currently allow for Presidential pardons, I think all pardons should be stopped.

Fletchette
November 30, 2004, 01:34 AM
To me, a President who gives a pardon to someone is dabbling in the Court's domain. I strongly believe that the Judicial and Executive branches of the Fed. Gov. should operate independantly of each other; at least as much as they can.

Are Presidential pardon powers granted by Federal law, or were they a part of the original Constitution?

Mark in California
November 30, 2004, 01:49 AM
First off, he had his civil rights returned to him after serving his time. This was before 1968, so there was not a federal felony disqualification for firearm ownership. In effect his sentence was changed long after he served his time.

Second, I beleave the ability of the President to issue pardons is found in the Constatution.

Fly320s
November 30, 2004, 01:59 AM
Are Presidential pardon powers granted by Federal law, or were they a part of the original Constitution?
The presidential power to pardon is granted under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution.

"The President ... shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment."

I read this briefing on the Whys and Hows of pardons: http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_pard.html, but I still feel that the President should not have the power to change a court's ruling.

Standing Wolf
November 30, 2004, 02:57 AM
Times sure seem to have changed quite a bit since Snopes Clinton offered pardons for sale in the White House.

Blackcloud6
December 1, 2004, 11:46 AM
To me, a President who gives a pardon to someone is dabbling in the Court's domain.

That is precisely why the President can pardon, its part of the checks and balances. In this case case it righted a wrong that the judicail system casued.

thumbody
December 1, 2004, 01:11 PM
http://www.ggnra.org/hottopics/pardon.shtml




State of Arkansas

Executive Department

PROCLAMATION

TO ALL WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME . . . GREETINGS:

WHEREAS, Danny Ray Lasater was convicted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Pulaski County, Arkansas, on December 18, 1986, of the crime of Knowingly and Intentionally Conspiring to Possess with the Intent to Distribute, and to Distribute Cocaine and sentenced to 30 months and $50.00 fine; and

WHEREAS, the State Board of Paroles and Community Rehabilitation has recommended that a conditional restoration of State rights, including the right to own and possess firearms, be granted; NOR THEREFORE, I, BILL CLINTON, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Arkansas, do hereby conditionally restore all rights, privileges and immunities enjoyed prior to conviction, including the right to own and possess firearms; provided, however, that no such restoration is effective until a federal removal of disabilities has been granted.







Dan Lasater was reported to be Billys brothers supplier.
But Bill was against us commoners having weapons

Joe Demko
December 1, 2004, 02:06 PM
I think it is good that Bush stepped in and set things right.

If the little fellow wanted to really "set things right" there are many better things he could have done. Just for starters, there are reams of executive orders he could rescind. Then he could get on to the real work or abolishing the 2nd class citizen status accorded to felons. Pardoning this guy counts as nothing but an isolated act of charity.
Why pardon just this guy, anyway? There's a gigapantload of people out there who have lost their rights and who have stories as sympathy-inducing as Mr. Lasater. Why didn't Bush pardon all of them too if he wants to set things right?

Michigander
December 1, 2004, 03:20 PM
That is precisely why the President can pardon, its part of the checks and balances. In this case case it righted a wrong that the judicail system casued.

The judicial system didn't cause it: the legislators in D.C. caused it.

JPL
December 2, 2004, 01:37 PM
It would appear that Morse took the car across state lines, which I believe immediately gets the Feds involved, doesn't it?

He probably also thought that the consequences of being AWOL would be a LOT more severe than simply hopping a car.

Michigander
December 3, 2004, 05:11 PM
It would appear that Morse took the car across state lines, which I believe immediately gets the Feds involved, doesn't it?

When the authors of the Constitution wrote "Offenses against the United States," I hardly think they meant someone merely committing a crime "across state lines."

Peet
December 3, 2004, 07:34 PM
To be fair, the REAL culprit is the Socialist Republic of Massachusetts.

A gun dealer up the street from me closed in 1998 -- he had a very OLD
sumpin' (none of my business) on his record. When Ch. 180 *spit* went into
effect, it was "retroactive" (what the heck *is* the legal term?), and put
him out of business.

This whole state (or Socialist Republic) needs a bitch-slap...

peet

Bad Words
December 3, 2004, 07:55 PM
"retroactive" (what the heck *is* the legal term?)
"ex post facto", or after the fact.

US Constitution - Article 1 - Secion 9 - Clause 3:
No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

CarlS
December 3, 2004, 09:35 PM
Can Governors also pardon, or can they only commute sentences?
I'm sure it would vary by state, eh?
Governors of states, at least the twelve I've lived in, can pardon and commute sentences.

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