By Jack Brammer
In his final hours as governor, Steve Beshear Monday night granted 201 pardons and six commutations to people sentenced for a range of offenses, including 10 women sentenced for violent crimes they committed after suffering years of domestic violence.
Throughout his eight years in office, the Democratic governor said he received more than 3,400 requests for pardons that were reviewed over several months by him and his staff.
"I spent many long days weighing the merits and circumstances of individual cases before making my final decisions," Beshear said in a statement. "The pardon authority afforded me by Section 77 of the Kentucky Constitution isn't something I take lightly. We are talking about action that impacts the lives of so many individuals."
Beshear noted that his predecessor, Republican Ernie Fletcher, received more than 1,000 pardon requests and granted just over 100 pardons during his four years in office.
Of the commutations of sentence or full pardons to 10 women who suffered domestic violence, Beshear said, "These 10 women -- some of whom are currently incarcerated and some of whom have already been released from institutions -- were recommended to me for consideration for full pardons after an extensive joint review by the Department for Public Advocacy and the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association.
"After further review of those files, I determined that some of the pardon requests should be granted, while others merited a commutation of sentence."
Of the 10 women, two are currently on parole and had their sentences commuted to time served. They are Barbara S. Sarabia, of Versailles, and Pearlie Sue Gambrel, of Flatlick.
Four of the women are currently incarcerated and also had their sentences commuted to time served. They are Donna Wheeler, Laurie Andrade and Judy Lee, all at Western Kentucky Correctional Complex, and Stacey Wigginton, at Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women.
Three of the women had completed their sentences and were granted pardons. They are Teresa Vincent, of Campbellsburg, Gabrielle Cecil, of Louisville, and Tamara E. Wilson, of Somerset.
Cheryl McCafferty, of Fredonia, who is currently incarcerated at Western Kentucky Correctional Complex, received a pardon.
Beshear, a former attorney general, also pardoned several individuals convicted of drug offenses.
He said their requests "described with candor their mistakes with drugs and highlighted their efforts to stay sober and become productive members of their communities."
Beshear added: "Throughout my administration, I have worked tirelessly with legislative leaders, local officials and advocates to wipe out the tragic impacts that substance abuse and addiction have had on the people of the commonwealth.
"A significant part of that strategy has been a focus on treatment to help these individuals have a fighting chance at staying clean and turning their lives around. After carefully considering the details of each of these cases, I am convinced that these individuals deserve a second chance at life with a clean record."
(c)2015 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)