Marine Corps veteran's bid for pardon - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Marine Corps veteran's bid for pardon

MADISON (WKOW) --- Marine Corps combat veteran Eric Pizer of Madison has commendations and medals, but feels his professional future hinges on something that's out of his grasp, so far: a pardon from Governor Walker.

"It upsets me," the 32-year old Pizer tells 27 News. "I was always told everybody should get a second chance."

During his military career, Pizer was involved in two deployments to the Middle East and the war in Iraq. His first deployment was to Kuwait, where the fuels specialist supported vehicles in combat convoys. Pizer volunteered for his second tour, and was assigned to a base in Iraq, where rocket-propelled grenades frequently landed near barracks and buildings. As a corporal, he was responsible for a group of Marines, with all the members serving their first deployment to the war zone. "I felt it was my responsibility to look after those guys," Pizer says.

In 2004, while on leave back home in southern Wisconsin, Pizer got involved in an after-bar fight.

"One punch," Pizer tells 27 News of his actions.

Court records show Pizer's one punch badly broke a Boscobel man's nose, requiring thousands of dollars in medical care.

Pizer was convicted of a felony crime in Grant County, and served a probation sentence.

It is the former Marine's only criminal conviction, and he has satisfied the terms of his probation. He's also completed collegiate classes in criminal justice.

Pizer's request for a pardon from Walker is one of more than 2,600 pending before the governor.

"I made one mistake, I paid for it, I've been doing everything I can to better myself," Pizer says.

Without a pardon, Pizer's felony conviction vanquishes any thought of Pizer pursuing his career goal of becoming a police officer, because the felony bars him from carrying a firearm.

Since taking office in January 2011, Governor Walker has yet to grant a pardon.

There are other governors who have also issued no pardons, including New Mexico republican Susana Martinez, and Massachusetts democrat Deval Patrick.

Attorney Margaret Love of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Restoration of Rights Project tells 27 News in some states where no recent pardons have been granted, there are separate, legal tracks to give felony offenders an opportunity to restore their rights.

Love says no similar alternative mechanism exists in Wisconsin.

Walker has said he does not intend to grant pardons, seeing them as undermining the outcomes of the criminal justice system.

Love says Walker is alone among governors in his stated philosophy, "...while in office, I will not use my pardon power."

But even Love concedes the pardon power can be abused. She worked as a legal adviser for former President Clinton, and disagreed with certain pardons.

More recently, former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour came under intense criticism for a host of pardons, with officials in that state's criminal justice system launching efforts to try to reverse the effects of some of Barbour's pardon granting.

One of Walker's close political allies, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, granted over sixty pardons.

The three Wisconsin governors immediately preceding Walker and representing both political parties granted a total of more than several hundred pardons. 

In 2011,  Walker issued an executive order creating a pardon advisory board, but has filled no positions on the board.

Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee), a former judge, co-authored legislation to try to force the governor to at least consult experts on the pardon applications before him.

"I frankly would like to encourage pardons, because I think they ought to be based on the conduct of the person," Kessler tells 27 News.

Former Outagamie County prosecutor David Relles has helped Pizer in efforts to try to win a pardon, or otherwise have the felony conviction reduced to a lesser crime. Relles says a governor's pardon power is delineated in the state constitution, and Walker's failure to even consider the possibility of a pardon for Pizer is "...a pretty, terrible injustice."

27 News contacted the victim of Pizer's felony battery, attempting to determine his feelings about Pizer's bid for official forgiveness. Input from victims is generally given significant weight in pardon applications.

The victim declined comment to 27 News.

"I was always told everybody should get a second chance," Pizer tells 27 News.

"I would just beg for him to maybe reconsider his position on where he stands on pardons."


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