Calling BS on Official Boilerplate

Adam Liptak has a story in today’s New York Times about William Macumber, an Arizona man who’s been in prison for 35 years for a double homicide he likely did not commit, that has to be read to be believed.

There’s lots of sordid family drama, and some evidence that the court system’s standards for what counts as admissible evidence are not always scrupulously even-handed. But as for the pressing public policy issue, the key facts are that Arizona’s five-member Board of Executive Clemency recommended last year that Macumber be released, and Jan Brewer, the state’s governor, rejected the recommendation without explanation. (Soon after, she announced plans to run for a full term.)

Liptak describes his efforts to get the governor to explain her thinking thusly (emphasis added):

A spokesman for the governor said Ms. Brewer had reviewed the case thoroughly, but he provided only boilerplate concerning her reasoning.

“Every executive clemency case is carefully scrutinized as the governor balances the very real and important concepts of public safety, justice and mercy,” the spokesman, Paul Senseman, said in an e-mail message.

Mr. Macumber is 74 and in failing health, with heart problems and arthritis, and the threat he poses to public safety is not obvious.

It’s a small thing, but gratifying.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.