HARRISBURG – After more than 18 hours of testimony over two days, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons recommended 48 Pennsylvanians for pardons and two for commutations, Lt. Governor Mike Stack announced this week.
“This was a particularly difficult week and the board put in long hours,” Stack said. “Some of these cases were very difficult but they represent a new momentum toward second chances and a more efficient and humane criminal justice system.”
In the public hearings, applicants are given 15 minutes to come before the board in the Capitol’s Supreme Court room to present their cases for pardon and answer sometimes probing questions from the board. At the end of each session, the board votes on whether to recommend the applicant for pardon to the governor, who has the final say. Two commutation cases were heard at end of the session Friday.
Last Thursday and Friday, the board considered 56 pardons cases, recommending 48 to the governor. The cases covered crimes originating in 29 different counties.
In August, 65 applicants passed a Merit Review Hearing, nine of those cases were either dismissed because the applicant failed to attend or were continued.
The board recommended commutation of a sentence of life without parole for Tina Brosius, 41, who was convicted in 1995 of murdering her newborn baby in a portable toilet in Lower Paxton Township, Pa.. Brosius was interviewed by the Board in person at SCI Camp Hill on Sept. 14. Her commutation was recommended by a required unanimous vote of the board after hearing from seven witnesses.
By a 3-2 vote, the board also recommended commutation of the 125-to-192-year sentence of Benny L. Ortega Jr., who was convicted in 1996 of trafficking in marijuana and cocaine. The board interviewed Ortega by video conference on Sept. 15. A simple majority of the board is required for commutation in cases not involving violence.
The next merit review is scheduled for Nov. 9 in room 8E-A at the Capitol. The next public hearings will be held December 14 and 15 in the Supreme Court chamber on the 4th floor of the Capitol.