Can Criminals Who Are Already on the Death Row Be Pardoned?


A pardon is a government decision which allows someone convicted of a crime to be free of the conviction. Many countries are exercising pardons especially when a person has demonstrated that he deserves to be granted a second chance. The government shall decide if someone has already fulfilled his or her liability to the society. Pardon is offered when innocence is unquestionable. It plays a very essential role especially when capital punishment or death penalty is applied.

Since 1976, a significant of death row inmates has been granted pardon due to humanitarian reasons such as doubts about the defendant’s guilt. They claim if they have been unjustly convicted or if they are unlawfully convicted at all. Clemency process differ from every state and country.

What are the types of clemency?

The types of clemency are amnesty, pardon, commutation and reprieve. Amnesty is usually given to a group who have done a political offense. Pardon on the other hand decreases a defendant’s sentence or it can also dismiss it. Commutation means that a legal punishment or penalty is lowered to a lesser one. A milder sentence is substituted. Reprieve is about cancellation or postponement of the punishment or scheduled execution.

What is a presidential pardon?

A presidential pardon is the official statement that forgiveness of the individual has taken place. It can restore the basic civil rights of the person. There were presidents who pardoned a number of Americans in the past like the former presidents Clinton and Obama.

The presidential pardon is higher and more powerful than a state’s governor. The latter cannot award clemency to a death-row inmate. You can check for your state’s provisions and if you are from Canada you can check Toronto pardon centre for more information.


Is there anyone that the president cannot grant pardon?

Well, there is. The president cannot pardon a person with a state offense as reflected in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. A president cannot pardon those who have cases of impeachment. Also, he cannot pardon himself. He only can give pardon for federal crimes.

Which President has pardoned the most people?

Going back in 1933, Former President Roosevelt had granted the highest number of pardon with a total of 3,687. Maybe, it is because of the fact that he has served for 12 years in office or a total of three presidential terms.

If you are wondering if there are any president who did not give any pardons during their term, they are former presidents James Garfield and William H. Harrison. It was because both of them died immediately after they assume their position. Former President Harrison died a month after being declared as president due to pneumonia and Former President Garfield was assassinated six months after becoming president.


Criminals who are already on the death row can still be pardoned especially if there is evident mistake in the procedure of the legal system or implementation of the law. The president can intervene in the sentencing of a criminal defendant to avoid injustice from happening.