Flyover Wire reminds us that Marion Michael Rounds's judgment seems to gone all to heck during the last couple months of his governorship. In late 2010, in the midst of doling out cash hand over fist for misappropriation at Northern Beef Packers, lame-duck Governor Rounds commuted the life sentence of Joaquin Jack Ramos, who killed his girlfriend Debbie Martines and her unborn child in 1994.
The family of Martines, whom Rounds had failed to contact during over two years of careful, unrushed consideration, was outraged and sought an audience with Rounds before he left office in January 2011. The family got the impression Rounds blamed them for not contacting him sooner. Stung by bad publicity, Rounds did promise to actively oppose Ramos's parole. Rounds made good on that promise last month, personally contacting the members of the state Board of Pardons and Parole. The board heeded Rounds's calls and turned down Ramos's first parole request.
But thanks to Rounds's mistake and his inability to Google people's names and addresses (this sounds familiar), the victims' family, not to mention Pennington County States Attorney Mark Vargo and other public officials, now faces the unpleasant and costly prospect of writing letters and trundling off to Springfield every eight months, as that's how often Ramos can apply for parole.
The only way Rounds can continue to make up for his mistake is by abusing his power and status. Rounds made personal phone calls to parole board members. Ramos's uncle, Angelo Cruz of Tampa, Florida, complains that he doesn't get to personally telephone and lobby members of the state parole board on in favor of parole for his nephew. I have no sympathy for Ramos himself, but from a cold, abstract justice perspective, I can see Cruz's point. If a convict deserved parole, I wouldn't want any rich and powerful individual to enjoy special access to the parole board to influence them against granting that parole. A former governor shouldn't get to fix his error by jumping the queue and exerting political pressure outside the normal channels available to regular citizens on either side of a judicial proceeding.