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Former Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin was narrowly defeated by his Democratic challenger for the title of Kentucky Governor. He used his final days in office to issue some rather alarming pardons to individuals convicted of crimes that include homicide and sexual assault on children.

To the best of my knowledge, no new evidence has come forth that would exonerate any of the individuals he has pardoned; to the best of everyone's knowledge, they are still guilty.

What are Bevin's stated reasons for these pardons?

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Yes, at least depending on what you count as "explaining". He also went on a 20-post twitter tirade about it.

His main points seem to be that, first and foremost, the criticism is manufactured by political opportunists, people who don't know what they're talking about and just want a soundbite, and liars (aka, it's fake news); and that he had spent hundreds of hours pouring over the cases and decided there were too many questions about the evidence or lack thereof. Frequently, Bevin seems to have decided to act as judge and jury all on his own, making his own decisions about the reliability, admissibility, and necessity of evidence. Though depending on how you feel about executive pardons and how they should work, maybe that's a non-issue to you and is exactly expected. And the governor in Kentucky has much greater latitude in his pardons than most any other state does, requiring little to no review or input from anyone.

Some examples of the more controversial pardons and reasons given:

  • In the Patrick Baker case—convicted murderer whose brother donated to Bevin's campaign—Bevin says he thinks he's innocent. The other two men convicted in the same crime were not pardoned and are still in prison. The pardon order says the evidence used to convict him was "sketchy at best".
  • In the case of Micah Schoettle—convicted of child rape— Bevin suggests there was no medical, physical, or eyewitness evidence against him. He has specifically claimed that the child still had her hymen and so couldn't have been penetrated, saying "trust me. If you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically." Bevin's pardon order said the case “was investigated and prosecuted in a manner that was sloppy at best."
  • In the case of Delmar Partin—convicted of killing a coworker, decapitating her, and stuffing her body in a barrel—, an appeal to have new DNA evidence considered was denied, with the court ruling that the evidence presented in the actual trial was more than sufficient. Bevin said “Given the inability or unwillingness of the state to use existing DNA evidence to either affirm or disprove this conviction, I hearby pardon Mr. Partin for this crime and encourage the state to make every effort to bring final justice to the victim and her family”.

As Bevin continues to give interviews, and other information otherwise continues to come up, there may be other reasons (and other controversial cases) not listed above.

Bevin has also stated that he's a big believer in second chances, and that adequate punishment, rehabilitation, and compensation to victims had already been achieved in a number of (unspecified) cases, and he subsequently pardoned or commuted sentences to stop the system from taking things too far. Such pardons make up the bulk of the some 600 he issued, and are less controversial, though the more controversial cases such as those above are getting most of the attention.

He's also said that he welcomes federal investigations into the pardons, suggesting the people making the calls for such investigations, in particular the prosecutors on the cases, would be the ones ultimately getting locked up. Implying, if not directly saying, he thinks there was serious prosecutorial misconduct on several cases. There are reports that the FBI is looking into some of the pardons, including Baker's, but nothing has come of that to date.

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    Interesting. Thank you-- this is exactly what I was looking for (and apparently could have just googled in the first place). While I disagree with the majority of his statements, I don't think it's inaccurate to state that prosecutors have been known to be overzealous in their convictions. That being said, it is extremely concerning that all of these cases appear to have had overwhelming evidence for the prosecution, and that first cases seems particularly difficult to defend, given the unequal treatment of individuals whose families did or did not donate to his re-election. – NegativeFriction Dec 16 '19 at 14:50

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