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Bush pardons Richard Arthur Morse

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Harry Tuttle, Nov 29, 2004.

  1. Harry Tuttle

    Harry Tuttle Well-Known Member

    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."

  2. Fletchette

    Fletchette Well-Known Member

    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.
  3. Michigander

    Michigander Well-Known Member

    Flechette, would you care to elaborate?
  4. shooten

    shooten Well-Known Member

    That's a great story. There's probably quite a few people out there like him.

  5. jsalcedo

    jsalcedo Well-Known Member

    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.
  6. Fletchette

    Fletchette Well-Known Member

    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).
  7. Michigander

    Michigander Well-Known Member

    Excessive punishment for stealing a car?
  8. Fletchette

    Fletchette Well-Known Member

    The excessive punishment of having one's unalienable rights repressed for decades thereafter.
  9. Lone_Gunman

    Lone_Gunman Well-Known Member

    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.
  10. Fletchette

    Fletchette Well-Known Member

    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.
  11. Michigander

    Michigander Well-Known Member

    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.
  12. Rumpled

    Rumpled Well-Known Member

    Can Governors also pardon, or can they only commute sentences?
    I'm sure it would vary by state, eh?
  13. Fletchette

    Fletchette Well-Known Member

    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?
  14. Ezekiel

    Ezekiel Well-Known Member

    With respect, "ask Gerald Ford."
  15. Michigander

    Michigander Well-Known Member

    For offenses against the United States of America.

    I don't believe a stolen car fits that bill.
  16. Fly320s

    Fly320s Well-Known Member

    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.
  17. Fletchette

    Fletchette Well-Known Member

    Are Presidential pardon powers granted by Federal law, or were they a part of the original Constitution?
  18. Mark in California

    Mark in California Well-Known Member

    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.
  19. Fly320s

    Fly320s Well-Known Member

    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.
  20. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

    Times sure seem to have changed quite a bit since Snopes Clinton offered pardons for sale in the White House.

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