Attorney General: Mr. Burton S. Yaffie, Secretary, Trumbull Park Business Center, 1996-010 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticu

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

July 17, 1996

Mr. Burton S. Yaffie, Secretary
Board of Pardons
Trumbull Park Business Center
935 White Plains Road
Suite 203
Trumbull, CT 06611

Dear Mr. Yaffie:

The Board of Pardons asked this office the following questions with regard to the possibility of future executions in the State of Connecticut:

  1. When is the first execution likely to be scheduled?
  2. When will a hearing be required in anticipation of an execution date? On the date of execution? Just before the execution? After all other appeals have been exhausted?
  3. Is it necessary for the Board to convene a commutation hearing in all cases whether requested or not?
  4. Who could request the convening of this special session: the defendant, his attorney, the Governor, a family member, etc.?

In response to inquiry 1, you should discuss this matter with the Chief State's Attorney. With regard to inquiries 2, 3 and 4, it is our view that it is within the discretion of the Board of Pardons to provide when hearings will be held and the person(s) who may request such a hearing. Moreover, it appears that the Board may initiate a hearing without any request at all.

Power to commute a sentence is part of the pardoning power, under which it may be exercised. 59 Am. Jur. 2d, Pardon and Parole 23 (1987). Ordinarily, the pardoning power resides in the executive. Dumschat v. Board of Pardons, 432 F.supp. 1310, 1312 (D. Conn. 1977) (Dumschat I), affd, 593 F.2d 165 (2d Cir. 1979), remanded, 618 F.2d 216 (2d Cir. 1980), rev'd. 452 U.S. 458, 101 S.Ct. 2460, 69 L.Ed.2d 158 (1981). In Connecticut, the pardoning power is vested in the legislature; Palka v. Walker, 124 Conn. 121, 198 A. 265 (1938); which has delegated its exercise to the board of pardons. Dumschat v. Board of Pardons, 452 U.S. 458, 463, 101 S.Ct. 2460, 69 L.Ed.2d 158 (1981) (Durischat II). Granting of a commutation is an act of clemency. State v. Walters, 145 Conn. 60,72-73,138 A.2d 786, cert denied, 358 U.S. 46, 79 S. Ct. 70, 3 L.Ed.2d 45 (1958). Section 18-26 creates no right or entitlement that may be claimed by any prison inmate. Dumschat II, supra, 467. Furthermore, the statute vests in the board unfettered discretion in making its pardon and commutation decisions: it imposes no definitions, no criteria and no mandates giving rise to a duty to commute a sentence or grant a pardon, or creatinga constitutional entitlement to an exercise of clemency. Id., 466. There exists no right to judicial review of denial of commutation. State v. Walters, supra, 73.

McLaughlin v. Bronson, 206 Conn. 267, 271, 537 A.2d 1004 (1988).

If you wish the assistance of the Attorney General's Office in drafting regulations dealing with these subjects, we shall be pleased to provide that assistance. You should remember, however, that the substance and direction of these regulatory provisions must come from the Board of Pardons.

Very truly yours,

Richard Blumenthal
Attorney General

Ann E. Lynch
Assistant Attorney General


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