The Slatest

Kentucky’s GOP Governor Issues Hundreds of Pardons, Many Controversial, Before Leaving Office

Trump smiles while standing behind Matt Bevin, who is giving a speech at a podium.
Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin during a rally in Lexington on Nov. 4. Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s term came to an end Tuesday, but not before the Republican took one final chance to kick the concept of justice in the shins on the way out the door by issuing a slew of highly controversial pardons. Since his narrow loss to Democrat Andy Beshear just over a month before departing, Bevin issued 428 pardons, a number to violent criminals, including, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports, “one offender convicted of raping a child, another who hired a hit man to kill his business partner and a third who killed his parents.”

The power of the pardon can be a helpful tool to right wrongs and correct the failings of the criminal justice system. It is also a powerful opportunity to show mercy, and while some of Bevin’s pardons fell within this broad definition, many others were highly unusual—and questionable—angering prosecutors in the state. State prosecutors said they had not been consulted on the moves, and families of the victims had not been notified beforehand.

Among the pardoned was Patrick Baker, who served just two years of a 19-year sentence for reckless homicide, impersonating a police officer, and tampering with evidence. Baker was convicted along with two others for a deadly 2014 home invasion where a father was killed in front of his family. Baker’s brother and sister-in-law raised $21,500 last year to retire Bevin’s 2015 gubernatorial campaign debt. They also donated $4,000 at the July 2018 fundraiser held at their home. Baker’s two co-defendants did not get pardoned by Bevin and remain in prison. “I’ve never seen a more compelling or complete case,” the sentencing judge said of Baker. “The evidence was just overwhelming.”

In addition, Bevin pardoned a man who was sentenced last year to 23 years in prison for raping a 9-year-old child, as well as a woman who was sentenced to life in prison for murder after giving birth in a flea market outhouse in 2003 and discarding the newborn. Bevin also released a man who had been in jail since 2003 for killing his parents and leaving their bodies in a basement when he was 16 years old, a man who hired a hit man to kill his business partner in 1991, and a man who had been on death row for a triple murder in 1983.