I get an occasional call from someone interested in seeking a pardon. Usually, the person doesn’t understand the process and, once I explain how rare it is for the governor to actually grant a pardon (even when it’s recommended by the Board of Pardons and Paroles, apparently), the interest dries up.
Here are some hard numbers from Grits for Breakfast that underscore the point:
That certainly validates my conviction that an attorney has an ethical obligation to warn a client about the improbability of success before accepting money to handle an application for pardon.
These numbers include only full pardons but I find it doubtful that the numbers for other forms of clemency, such as conditional pardons, pardons based on innocence, commutations of sentence, and emergency medical reprieves are appreciably larger. Here’s a link to Grits’s source material for anybody motivated enough to actually answer that question. For more information about pardons, see this FAQ sheet from the Board of Pardons and Paroles.