The Man Who Refused A Presidential Pardon

Only one time in history has a man refused a Presidential pardon.

In 1829 two men, George Wilson a postal clerk and James Porter, robbed a United States mail carrier train. Both were subsequently captured and tried in a court of law. Both men were found guilty of six charges, including robbery of the mail “and putting the life of the driver in jeopardy.” Both Wilson and Porter received their sentences: Execution by hanging, to be carried out on July 2, 1830.

Porter was executed on schedule, but Wilson was not. Wilson’s influential friends pleaded for mercy to the President of the time, Andrew Jackson, on his behalf. President Jackson issued a formal pardon, dropping all charges. Wilson would have to serve only a prison term of 20 years for his other crimes.

Surprisingly, George Wilson refused the pardon! An official report stated Wilson chose to “waive and decline any advantage or protection which might be supposed to arise from the pardon….” Wilson also stated he “…had nothing to say, and did not wish in any manner to avail himself in order to avoid sentence….” The U.S. Supreme Court determined, “The court cannot give the prisoner the benefit of the pardon, unless he claims the benefit of it…. It is a grant to him: it is his property, and he may accept it or not as he pleases.”

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, “A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws…. (But) delivery is not completed without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and…we have no power in a court to force it on him.”

With Presidential pardons being in the news it is hard to imagine someone would refuse a Presidential Pardon especially when the end result was that the person refusing the pardon was hanged.

Interesting Lawsuit of the Month: Woman Sues Herself in Wrongful Death Case

It’s one thing to hold yourself responsible for the mistakes of the past. But it’s quite another to actually sue yourself for them. That’s exactly what’s happening in Utah, where a Utah Court of Appeals has ruled that Barbara Bagley can indeed bring a wrongful death suit against herself for negligence in the death of her husband.

In December 2011, Bagley was driving in the Nevada desert when she struck a sagebrush and flipped her Range Rover, throwing her husband, Bradley Vom Baur, from the vehicle. He later died of his injuries. Bagley’s suit claims that she “fail[ed] to maintain a proper lookout” while driving. Bagley is seeking damages to cover medical and funeral expenses along with compensation for the pain suffered by her husband who died 10 days after the December 2011 crash.

So, what could possibly bring a woman to sue herself? Before Bagley can inherit the worth of her husband’s estate, all creditors must be paid first. In suing herself, she’s really seeking to have her insurance pay the creditors instead that cost coming out of her pocket.

Reid Tateoka, who is acting on behalf of Bagley in her capacity as a widow, said she has been forced to sue herself to receive money from her insurers. “The insurance company refused to pay out and said she was at fault. “It said it was prepared to pay for the car, but it would not take responsibility for her husband. She can only expect compensation if the court upholds her claim that she was a negligent driver, with the financial responsibility resting with her insurers. She will also face cross examination by lawyers acting on her behalf as a motorist.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Bagley the negligent driver have sought to have the case dismissed. Peter Christensen, who is representing Bagley the motorist, said he expected her claim as widow to be dismissed. “If the jury finds that the plaintiff is 50% or more at fault for the accident and death, she is barred from recovery,” he said. Mr. Tateoka, meanwhile, insisted that Bagley was not going to profit out of her negligence as a driver even if she wins the case as a widow and heir. “She won’t receive anything personally out of this. It might just take care of a headstone.”

Attorneys are looking to have the suit dismissed, pointing out how bizarre and confusing it might be for a jury to have to decide if Bagley’s negligence caused her own trauma, and the possible absurdity of the jury ordering Bagley to compensate herself if she indeed won the suit. After all, if Bagley were to be victorious, she would end up actually being rewarded for her own negligence that killed her husband.

Given the facts of the case and that its not everyday a person sues herself. We believe it qualifies as our interesting case of the month.

Quote of the Month

“I’m not going to swear an oath I can’t uphold. When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies.”    – Jon Snow, Season Finale of Game of Thrones