What is ‘Executive Clemency’ you may well ask. Executive Clemency may take several forms, including pardon, commutation of sentence, remission of fine or restitution, and reprieve. The President’s clemency power extends only to federal criminal offenses. The Pardon Attorney prepares the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for the President for final disposition of each application. Clemency as regards the Peltier case refers to the commutation of his sentence, not a pardon. A president can decrease the amount of time Leonard Peltier must serve prior to release or immediately release Leonard Peltier for time already served. (A pardon can only be awarded once a released prisoner has been free and hasn’t re-offended for a period of five years.)
The authority to grant a commutation of a sentence imposed by a federal court belongs only to the President (under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution). This means that the above clemency regulations are advisory only and for the internal guidance of DOJ personnel. The decision to commute Leonard Peltier’s sentence is the President’s alone. The timing of such awards also is entirely up to the discretion of the President and may occur on the day he/she takes office, his/her last day in office, or any day in between.