House endorses bill on governor, clemency

Print Article

HELENA — The Montana House Wednesday endorsed a bill giving the governor power to overrule the Board of Pardons and Parole on clemency decisions for felons — a measure spurred in part the case of convicted murderer Barry Beach.

The House endorsed House Bill 43 on an 86-14 vote, setting up a final vote this week before the measure proceeds to the Senate.

“This is just one check and balance in a rare occurrence in our judicial branch,” said Rep. Margie MacDonald, D-Billings, the sponsor of the bill.

Under current law, the governor has the power to grant executive clemency to convicted felons who request it, by either pardoning them or adjusting their sentence.

However, on non-death-penalty cases, the governor cannot consider the case unless the Parole Board recommends clemency.

HB 43 says the governor can consider any clemency application regardless of the board’s recommendation. It also says the governor can order the board to have a hearing on a clemency request if the board denies a hearing.

Beach, who has long proclaimed his innocence in a 1979 murder, applied for clemency in 2013, asking that his 100-year, no-parole sentence be commuted so he could be considered for parole.

A three-member panel of the Parole Board denied his request and refused to send it to the governor for consideration — even though Gov. Steve Bullock had sent a letter to the board supporting Beach’s request.

Rep. Steve Lavin, R-Kalispell, argued against the bill Wednesday, saying the Parole Board has been doing a good job and doesn’t need to be second-guessed.

“This is a bad bill based on one isolated case,” he said, referring to the Beach case.

MacDonald, however, said HB 43 is not just about the Beach case and that other examples exist of the board denying clemency with no explanation, even though the applicant appeared to be a good candidate for clemency. Only about two-dozen requests for clemency are filed each year.

MacDonald said Montana is one of only eight states where the Board of Pardons and Parole can block a clemency request without the governor being able to intervene.

Before endorsing the measure, the House also amended the bill to say the governor may not consider clemency for any of his or her personal relatives or close associates.

 

Print Article

Read More Local News

Love letters Military couples go the distance to stay connected during deployments

February 14, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake On the back of a military ready-to-eat meal marked “corned beef hash,” a U.S. Marine stationed overseas in late 1980s began a letter to his wife back home: “How do you like my stationary?” The rugge...

Comments

Read More

Study: Coverage could decline with Medicaid work requirement

February 14, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake A new analysis released Wednesday estimates 26,000 to 36,000 low-income Montanans could lose health coverage if state lawmakers decide to pass a bill that would require Medicaid enrollees ages 19 to ...

Comments

Read More

Unusual ice disc spotted in Stillwater River

February 14, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake While some may not care for the latest blast of winter weather in the Flathead, it did result in a natural oddity that several passersby discovered in Kalispell this week. Olney resident Ed Clark wa...

Comments

Read More

Whitefish Police alert public to phone scam

February 14, 2019 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake The Whitefish Police Department wants to alert police to a phone scam is being perpetrated in the Flathead Valley. According to Chief Bill Dial, the way the scam works is a person will call ...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2019 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X