No clemency hearing for Giles or Alexander

Carla St.Louis | 4/17/2014, 9 a.m.
Two Black Florida residents who are in separate self-defense trials will have to wait longer to have their clemency cases ...

Two Black Florida residents who are in separate self-defense trials will have to wait longer to have their clemency cases reviewed by state officials.

Despite Senator Dwight Bullard's (D-39) ongoing efforts to obtain pardons for Michael Giles and Marissa Alexander, neither parties are mentioned as topics on the agenda for the Executive Board of Clemency's June 18 meeting.

Brittany Roberson, of the Florida Parole Commission said they were not scheduled for inclusion in any of the Board’s upcoming meetings for the year, despite the national outcry both convictions received.

According to Roberson, based on the Commission's eligibility criteria, Giles and Alexander are ineligible for clemency.

“The decision of the Commission to parole an inmate shall represent an act of grace of the State and should not be considered a right,” reads a message on the Clemency Board’s website.

Attorneys for both Alexander and Giles claim the two should be protected by the state’s controversial self-defense law, Stand Your Ground, which gives Floridians the right to use fatal force to defend themselves without fleeing from life-threatening situations.

In August of 2011, Michael Giles, a former U.S. airman, was convicted of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon for shooting a man with a registered firearm in the leg during a bar brawl in 2010. In Florida, the crime comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty years. Giles’ attorneys filed a motion for post-conviction relief, challenging his conviction for aggravated battery.

Like Giles, Alexander faced a similar fate. She was sentenced to 20-years in prison for firing a warning shot to her abusive husband. Alexander’s conviction sparked national outrage from Black leaders and Americans before her case was overturned by an appellate judge who ordered a new trial in September.

Bullard wrote a letter to Governor Rick Scott, who oversees the Clemency Board, asking for a review and response to Giles’ judgment on March 3.

Bullard’s first letter, sent in September of last year, requesting clemency for the pair received no reply from Governor Rick Scott.

Nine days later, Thomas D. Winokur, a clemency aide for Governor Rick Scott at the Office of the Governor, sent a letter to Bullard suggesting no current need for the Parole Commission to pursue clemency due to their impeding court dates.

“Ms. Alexander should be permitted to have her day in court before a jury of her peers before the Clemency Board considers any petition on her behalf,” read the letter.

Adam H. Putnam, Commissioner of Agriculture, released a statement through his press secretary, Erin Gillespie alluding to the possibility that both cases may become eligible for clemency.

"Commissioner Putnam must decline to comment on the cases because they may come before the Board of Executive Clemency in the future for a decision," said Gillespie.

The Clemency Board's other members include Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

There are approximately 5,900 inmates who are still eligible for parole consideration and numerous offenders who are still under parole supervision in Florida.

The Executive Board of Clemency has four scheduled meetings for this year. One was held on March 19 and two more are expected after the June 18 meeting for September 10 and December 10, respectively.