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Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether a governor can reverse clemency decision

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Governor Jennifer Granholm exceeded her authority when she reversed her decision to commute the life sentence of a convicted murderer.

Matthew Makowski is serving a sentence of life without parole for murder and armed robbery. 

During her final days in office, Governor Granholm used her executive authority to commute his sentence to make him eligible for parole. The paperwork was filed and sent to the state Department of Corrections.

But before it was delivered to the inmate, some of the victim’s family members objected to the possibility that Makowski might one day be freed.

Granholm reversed her decision, but Makowski says it was too late.

He says the governor has the power to commute sentences, but the Michigan Constitution does not make provisions to reverse that decision later on. He also says his due process rights were violated.

A University of Michigan legal clinic took up Makowski’s cause, arguing that the governor could not change her mind after the fact. Lower courts held this was a case where the judicial branch could not tell the governor how to do her job. Makowski lost in lower courts. 

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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