Prosecutor On Kentucky Pardons
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Former Governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin left office this week. And the Republican pardoned or commuted the sentences of 428 people in his final days in office. Among them are convicted murderers and rapists. The move has sparked outrage with critics citing the case of a convicted killer who was pardoned whose family also held a Bevin fundraiser. Joining us today is Brian Wright, a commonwealth's attorney who prosecuted the case of one of Bevin's controversial pardons. And he joins us now. Welcome.
BRIAN WRIGHT: Thank you for having me on.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Could you tell us more about the outcry over these pardons from the state's political and legal communities? Criticism of Bevin's pardons, it isn't running along party lines, right? I mean, you yourself are a Republican official, and you've gone on the record calling this disgusting.
WRIGHT: That's correct. You know, a lot of people here in Kentucky on both sides of the political aisle are quite upset and frustrated, disgusted by Governor Bevin's - former Governor Bevin's actions. And, you know, the main outcry, if you will, or the main source of people's disgust is just the nature and number of crimes that received pardons or defendants that received pardons. And, you know, a lot of them involve violent offenders, heinous crimes, people that are just turned back out on the street in spite of what...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's a 41-year-old man convicted of raping a 9-year-old child last year. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison and is getting out now only after one year.
WRIGHT: That's right - and will not be required to register as a convicted sex offender.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you think was behind this?
WRIGHT: It's just hard to say. There's certainly some information that's starting to come out about some of the pardons that makes at least some people question whether there were some improper motives, some improper things involved. And I hope that it's looked into.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're talking about the case of Patrick Baker. I know that's not a case that you prosecuted, but can you tell us about it and what the criticism has been?
WRIGHT: You know, the criticism has been mainly because of the connections that the defendant had to others who were financial supporters of Matt Bevin. They hosted fundraisers and made contributions. Whether that played a direct role or not, nobody knows. But the indication is sure there, and the appearance is sure there. And I think it needs to be looked into.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can we talk about the case of yours that just got pardoned, Blake Walker? Remind us a little bit about what happened in that case and if you have any idea why he was pardoned.
WRIGHT: Sure. I'll tell you a little bit about the background of the case. December 2002, Blake Walker was a couple of weeks shy of his 17th birthday and essentially executed his parents. His mother was a professor at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia. Father was a hard worker and helped at one of the local fire departments - just good people. And it was a disturbing case for the community, for that family. And as it stands now, one man made the decision that this is what ought to be done. Now Blake Walker is a free man with no supervision, no conditions attached to his release and granted a full pardon.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me just ask you something quickly.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Since these pardons can't be reversed, what do you think critics like yourself are hoping to achieve?
WRIGHT: Honestly, I hope to see two things. One, I hope to see some reform in the way pardon power is exercised in the future. I think that, you know, as these demonstrate, these pardons here demonstrate this governor can do this without having to be accountable and knowing that he wasn't going to be accountable, at least to the voters. The second thing is I hope that there is some investigation to see whether any of these pardons involved a corrupt or improper or illegal motive.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's commonwealth's attorney Brian Wright. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
WRIGHT: All right. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.