Snow and Avalanche Center 2007 Avalanche News

Pardons bill glides through HOUSE:
Legislators voted 30-0 to require advance victim notification.

The Associated Press

Published: January 31, 2007
Last Modified: February 1, 2007 at 03:16 AM

JUNEAU -- The Alaska House unanimously passed its first bill Tuesday, a bipartisan measure that requires that a victim or the victim's family be notified before the governor issues a pardon to the perpetrator of a crime.

The legislation was born after public outcry over former Gov. Frank Murkowski's pardon of a company convicted of criminal negligence in the 1999 avalanche death of one of its workers.

Murkowski's action came in the last hours of his administration. The victim's family learned of the pardon only after being contacted by a newspaper reporter.

Sponsor Rep. Ralph Samuels, R-Anchorage, said the bill does not take away from a governor's constitutional right to grant clemency.

"But if the executive cannot pass the red-face test by being able to make that phone call and tell a woman who has been raped or the family of a person who has been murdered, if they cannot make that phone call, then the pardon should not be issued," Samuels said.

The measure requires that the Alaska Parole Board contact the victim, the Department of Law and the Alaska Office of Victims' Rights. It also requires the governor to wait at least 180 days to approve a pardon from the time the notice is made.

Currently, state officials are required to inform victims of criminal proceedings. Victims also have the right to attend criminal proceedings and be heard at sentencing, bail or parole hearings.

Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said the legislation is a good common-sense step to further the rights of victims.

"It's one that I wish we had thought of earlier," Kerttula said. "And it's great to see that this very heavily bipartisan-supported bill is the first one of this session."

Fourteen representatives, Republicans and Democrats alike, joined as co-sponsors of the bill.

The measure passed the House by a vote of 30-0. Nine representatives -- including House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez -- were absent because poor weather has prevented their planes from landing in Juneau since Monday.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where a similar bill is in committee.

The measures are House Bill 69 and Senate Bill 55.

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