High court: Governor wrongly revoked commutation - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

High court: Governor wrongly revoked commutation

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned one of Jennifer Granholm's last acts as governor and gave an inmate an opportunity for release after 25 years in prison.
 
The court ruled 6-0 that Granholm exceeded her constitutional authority in 2010 when she first commuted the life sentence of Matthew Makowski but then changed her mind when relatives of a murder victim complained.
 
It's an unprecedented case in Michigan. Lower courts let Granholm's decision stand, but the Supreme Court said she went too far.
 
"The language of the (state) Constitution confers only the power to grant commutations. The fact that the Constitution specifically provides that the Governor may grant a commutation implies that the Governor's power is limited only to that ability," Justice Michael Cavanagh wrote for the majority.
 
Makowski was convicted of first-degree murder for arranging the robbery of a Dearborn health club co-worker in 1988. Makowski didn't know the robbers would be armed and wasn't present when Pietro "Pete" Puma was fatally stabbed.
 
The state attorney general's office defended Granholm, arguing that courts can't review how a Michigan governor uses constitutional authority to change an inmate's sentence.
 
And even if courts do, state attorneys said, Granholm was free to change her mind, especially since Makowski never had a commutation certificate in his hands, 110 miles away at prison.
 
In November 2010, the state parole board recommended 8-7 that Granholm change Makowski's no-parole sentence, a step that would have cleared the path for his eventual release on parole.
 
He told the board he was sorry for Puma's death. Supporters said Makowski, now 47, has become a devout Roman Catholic behind bars and led many inmates to Christianity.
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