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Wednesday May 6th, 2015 1:25AM

State Board of Pardons & Paroles: The power over life and death

By Ken Stanford Reporter
When the State Board of Pardons and Paroles commuted the death sentence of a Dawson County murderer to life in prison Wednesday, it was only the fifth death sentence commuted by the board since 2002.<br /> <br /> So, what is the history of the board and who are the individuals charged with carrying out its functions, including deciding between life and death?<br /> <br /> According to its Website, the board was created by a Constitutional amendment in 1943. In addition to granting clemency in cases like the one decided on Wednesday, the board also has the authority to grant parole, releasing prisoners from the state prison system after he or she has served a portion of their sentence. (Read more about the workings of the board by clicking on the link below.)<br /> <br /> The board did not give any explanation for its decision in the Tommy Lee Waldrip case Wednesday, saying only that it had reviewed and considered all the facts and circumstances of the case, as well as arguments for and against clemency. It is customary for the board not to give the reasons for its decisions in such cases. The hearings are not open to the media. <br /> <br /> Who are the board members?<br /> <br /> They are individuals appointed by the governor. The current five-member board includes James Mills of Gainesville, a former State Representative, who was named to the board by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2011. Mills currently serves as Vice Chairman of the board. (You can read more about the individual board members, by clicking on the link below.)<br /> <br /> At the time of his appointment, Mills said "Every decision made by the pardon and parole board affects someone's life and I take this very seriously."<br /> <br /> (The Associated Press contributed to this story.)
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