Texas clemency board: On second thought, never mind about that posthumous George Floyd pardon

Did the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles really find numerous procedural errors in its recommendation for a posthumous pardon for George Floyd? Or is the withdrawal just as political as the initial recommendation? After people noticed the omission of Floyd’s name from the traditional Christmas clemency list, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office released a letter yesterday from the panel earlier this month, in which they withdrew Floyd’s petition:

A Texas board that had unanimously supported a posthumous pardon for George Floyd over a 2004 drug arrest in Houston backpedaled in an announcement Thursday, saying “procedural errors” were found in their recommendation months after leaving the decision to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

The unusual reversal was announced by Abbott’s office two days before Christmas, around the time he typically doles out his annual pardons. Abbott granted clemency Thursday to eight people recommended by the board.

Floyd’s name was withdrawn along with two dozen other clemency recommendations that had been submitted by the Texas Board of Pardon and Paroles.

In a letter dated Dec. 16 but not released publicly until now, the board told Abbott that it had identified “unexplained departures” from its process of issuing pardons and needed to reconsider more than a third of the 67 clemency recommendations it sent to Abbott this year, including the one for Floyd.

Houston attorney Allison Mathis submitted the initial application for a posthumous pardon, and is none too happy about the reversal. She called it a “farce,” and accused Abbott of playing politics:

Allison Mathis, a Houston public defender who had put the request before the parole board in May, told The Texas Tribune on Thursday that she was “furious” about the decision. She said the request had already been through a compliance review and none of the seven appointed board members had raised an issue with it. She accused Abbott of playing politics.

“It definitely seems like is that he didn’t want to have to vote on this, for whatever reason,” Mathis said. “It just seems awfully convenient.”

“Politics”? This application was political from its inception. Ostensibly, the application is based on allegations faced by Floyd’s arresting officer about planting evidence on suspects, allegations that aren’t even specific to Floyd’s case for drug possession. (If Floyd was unjustly prosecuted on the basis of falsified evidence, Mathis should begin a legal exoneration/vindication process.) The clear intent, though, is a political campaign to needlessly turn Floyd into a secular saint, even though at the time of his final arrest he was detained for passing counterfeit currency and under the influence of drugs. That makes him a strange candidate for a pardon, posthumous or otherwise. It’s a political stunt, not a serious reconsideration of Floyd’s case in Texas.

Floyd doesn’t need to have his record cleared to make his death unjustified. If he was killed in custody by police when no longer a danger, as a jury found earlier and as video of the incident strongly suggested from the start, then he’s a legit victim. Legit victims don’t have to be pure to seek justice or to have the wrongs done against them recognized as such.

Was the withdrawal political, an attempt to protect Abbott from having to decline the Floyd petition? It’s certainly possible, perhaps even likely, although the defects in the process apparently affected quite a few of the board’s recommendations. But all that would prove, even if true, is that political stunts are subject to politics, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. If it’s a farce, it’s because it started off as one.

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