Now that the legislative session has ended, Governor Jay Nixon (D) again says he will turn more attention to requests for clemency that have come to his office.
“It’s one of the issues that we’ve had a number of – over the last few weeks even. We’ve been looking at some of the cases very, very closely,” said Nixon on Friday, May 13 – the final day of the session. “I think you can expect some action relatively soon.”
There are 2,997 requests for clemency pending with the governor’s office. 14 of those were announced in October, 2014, by a group called the Community Coalition for Clemency. Those were for women who, the Coalition says, were victims of domestic violence that factored into their crimes.
Attorney Amy Lorenz-Moser represents two of those women.
“One of the clients I represent, Donna Biernacki, she killed her abuser in basically an act of self-defense,” Lorenz-Moser told Missourinet. “Domestic violence played a role in all of these crimes and I think that there needs to be some recognition of that in dealing with their sentences.”
Lorenz-Moser says in many cases, including some of those 14, women receive sentences that are disproportionately harsh compared to those handed down to men guilty of the same or similar crimes.
Nixon’s office couldn’t report on the status of any specific clemency requests, but Nixon said when he does next announce clemency decisions, it won’t be the last time before his term ends in a few months.
“You’re going to see some action relatively soon not only on the first traunch but a couple more … you’re going to see some action relatively quickly on some and that won’t be the only time,” said Nixon.
In his more than seven years as governor he has granted clemency to 17 men and women. Among those, he commuted the death sentences of Kimber Edwards and Richard Clay. He also commuted the sentence of Jeff Mizanskey of Sedalia, who had been serving life in prison for marijuana offenses under an outdated three-strikes law. Mizanskey was later paroled.