New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday granted clemency to 21 people convicted of state crimes ranging from marijuana possession to second-degree murder.
The series of clemencies entailed 14 pardons and seven commutations.
"Those receiving pardons have, for years, demonstrated they are strong functioning members of their community and deserving of a clean slate that will allow them to escape the stigma of a long-ago conviction," Cuomo said in the statement. "Those receiving sentence commutations have undergone a successful rehabilitation, demonstrated true remorse their actions and shown themselves to be worthy of a chance to re-enter society."
One of those to receive a pardon was a woman convicted of criminal possession of marijuana and criminal trespass, who "has been crime free for 18 years, is a registered nurse, and has worked at a nursing home in New York State throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis."
One of the sentence commutations was granted to a woman convicted of second-degree murder, who has served 16 years of a 22-year sentence. "She cycled in and out of abusive relationships throughout her adult life, including a relationship with victim of the crime for which she has now been incarcerated for more than 16 years and who she maintains she killed in self-defense," the statement said, noting also that, while incarcerated, she took part in numerous programs addressing the effects of abuse and earned certification as a hospice aid.
Cuomo called the clemencies "another step toward a more fair and a more empathetic New York," and thanked volunteer attorneys for helping clemency applicants and "for their dedication and pursuit of justice and rehabilitation."
Governors have the power to grant clemency only in instances of state crimes, while the constitutional power of pardon accorded to the U.S. president applies only to crimes committed under federal law.