Delaware Governor Commutes Death Sentence


Delaware Governor Jack Markell last week accepted a recommendation from the state Board of Pardons to commute Robert Gattis’s death sentence to life in prison without parole. Gov. Markell, a supporter of the death penalty who rejected clemency petitions from two death row inmates when he sat on the pardons board, announced on January 17, 2012, that the execution scheduled for Friday, January 20, would not go forward.

Delaware law permits a governor to grant commutation only if a majority of the five-member pardons board recommends it.

In Mr. Gattis’s case, the board voted to recommend clemency after considering disturbing accounts of physical and sexual abuse that Mr. Gattis suffered as a child and which the courts had never properly weighed, the disproportionate nature of the sentence when compared to cases with similar facts, and the non-unanimous jury vote for a death sentence.

The governor gave that recommendation great weight, and considered the impact on the victim’s family, with whom he met prior to announcing his decision.

“At the end of the day, although I am not free from doubt,” Mr. Markell said, “I believe moving forward with the execution of Mr. Gattis is not appropriate.”