Matt Bevin reluctantly conceded the Kentucky governor’s race to Democrat Andy Beshear, but he’s not done wreaking havoc on the voters who rejected him. Before he formally left office, he pardoned hundreds of people, many convicted of violent and disturbing crimes. One man allegedly beheaded a woman and stuffed her body inside a pipe, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported; another is a child rapist. In one gratuitously corrupt instance, Bevin pardoned the brother of a donor who hosted a fundraiser for him in 2018. The man, Patrick Baker, had been convicted of murder. According to the Associated Press, several other Bevin pardons went to members of wealthy families.
Bevin has claimed various justifications for the pardons. “Patrick Baker is a man who has made a series of unwise decisions in his adult life,” he wrote in a pardon letter, and called the evidence in the case “sketchy at best.” The man convicted of child rape, he insisted, “was tried and convicted of a heinous crime based only on testimony that was not supported by any physical evidence.” He told the Washington Post that he’s “a believer in second chances.” Later, on Friday afternoon, he tweeted a longer defense of his pardons:
The American criminal-justice system is not very good at second chances. Its failures and abuses are myriad. People do get convicted, and often based on shoddy evidence and pseudoscience, like blood-splatter pattern analysis, as journalist Pamela Colloff has repeatedly reported. And not all of Bevin’s pardons are so egregiously misguided. NPR reports that the former governor also pardoned or commuted the sentences of individuals incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. In another case, he commuted the death sentence of Gregory Wilson, whose lead counsel “had no office, no law books and on his business card, he gave out the phone number to a local tavern,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
But Bevin’s other pardons have caused so much outrage that even fellow Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell condemned them.
State lawmakers have called for an investigation into the process. One Republican, State Senator Chris McDaniel, has promised to introduce a measure to limit the governor’s powers to pardon, the AP reports. “If a governor wants to use the power to commute and pardon, he should be willing to stand in front of the voters and be held accountable for those actions,” McDaniel said.
This post has been updated with new information.