New York Governor Andrew Cuomo granted clemency to 21 people on Christmas Eve, including two women convicted of murdering their abusive partners and a 70-year-old Vietnam War veteran convicted of second-degree murder in the 1980s.
“In New York, we believe the law must be fair and also compassionate,” Cuomo said in a statement on Thursday. “The government is uniquely placed to harness the power of redemption, to encourage those who have committed crimes to engage in meaningful rehabilitation, and to help these individuals work towards a better future for themselves and others.”
Maria Ordonez, 26, was convicted of manslaughter in 2018 for killing her abusive boyfriend six years ago, according to Cuomo’s office. But he was “beating and choking” at the time, and she completed vocational training and university courses while in prison. His sentence had three years left before commuting.
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Theresa Debo, 64, claims more than a decade ago that she killed her abusive partner in self-defense. She had no criminal record before her second-degree murder conviction in 2006 and spent her time in prison training in hospices and animal care programs. She served 16 of her 22 years in prison for life. The rest was switched.
Arnold Raimondo is a 70-year-old Vietnam War veteran who enlisted at 17 and developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He served 39 years of a 50-year life sentence on two counts of second-degree murder in 1983.
While in prison, Cuomo’s office said Raimondo had become an advocate for veterans imprisoned with PTSD and lived in the “honor block” for more than a decade.
In all, the governor granted full pardon to 14 people convicted of crimes, most of them non-violent, many related to drug charges, and commuted the sentences of seven violent offenders.
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Cuomo said that all recipients demonstrated “remorse, rehabilitation and commitment to their communities”.
Cuomo rarely uses his powers to grant clemency, according to New York-based Gothamist. In the past four years, he has been required more than 6,400 times, the agency said, and has granted less than 100 times, including just 14 commutations, not including the most recent seven.