Gov. John Hickenlooper (D – Colorado) announced pardons for 22 people during a news conference Monday afternoon.
The people who received a pardon were chosen from more than 300 applications, Hickenlooper said. All of the people pardoned pleaded guilty or no contest to the crimes back in the day.
None of them were convicted of murder or sexual assault.
"It's not like we're being the judge and the jury all in one," Hickenlooper said. "It's like we're being the jury 25 years later, and judging that person's life and has this person rehabilitated themselves, you know, changed their life, so instead of being a cost and a burden to society they have become contributors."
Prior to this, Hickenlooper has only issued one pardon during his time in office. It happened this year under unusual circumstances.
Rene Lima-Marin was released early from prison on a robbery conviction due to a clerical error by the courts and began to turn his life around. Then he was flagged for deportation back to Cuba. The pardon was intended to counter that action from federal authorities.
One of the people pardoned was Wayne Thomas. He was tried as an adult and convicted as a felon for beating another teenager when he was 17 years old.
After serving his time, Thomas decided to take his life in a better direction. He earned his high school diploma behind bars and when he got out, went on to earn his doctorate degree in health sciences.
"It feels great. It lets me know that all my hard work has paid off," Thomas said.
His victim has since forgiven him.
Thomas has managed to create a career for himself in the heath care sector despite the difficulty that comes with checking the "yes" box next to the question asking whether a job applicant has ever been convicted of a felony.
"It's validation," Thomas said of the pardon. "When [people] hear that word 'pardon,' it's an official stamp of approval that I've turned my life around."
District Attorney George Brauchler issued the following statement about Thomas' pardon:
Wayne Thomas is a man who is truly deserving of what I consider to be the pinnacle of clemency, which is a pardon.
Mr. Thomas has gone from an Aurora teenage convicted felon, incarcerated for his crimes, to an upstanding member of our community. He is a man who became a husband and father, earned his doctorate, a top-notch leader in his business, and has given back to his community in numerous ways, including speaking with other men who made similar mistakes early in their lives..
Granting Wayne Thomas a pardon has been the right thing to do since the summer of 2014, when he first applied for clemency. I have championed this outcome since I met with Wayne and spoke with him about his case and life thereafter.
The pardon power does not exist to merely wipe away the past convictions of a person who has met the bare minimum of living a crime-free life. It exists to acknowledge those who have exceeded expectations and demonstrated—not only full rehabilitation—but a commitment to the community. Wayne Thomas is the reason why there is a pardon power in our constitution.
I am heartened by the governor’s move and encourage him to act on other equally-deserving applications.
Some people have earned the right to be publicly forgiven. Congratulations, Mr. Thomas: You are one of them.
You can see a full list of the people pardoned here: http://bit.ly/2hHjqZY