The Washington State Clemency and Pardons Board voted this morning to recommend clemency for serial purse snatcher Stevan Dozier, the first person convicted under the "three strikes and you're out" law to come before the board. "This is an extraordinary and historic hearing," said board chair Margaret Smith after the two-hour event in Olympia, which began at 9 a.m. The recommendation now goes to Governor Christine Gregoire, who alone has the authority to grant clemency, and in the past has used it sparingly.
The board's four members said they were influenced by Dozier's unusual supporters, among them King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, who came down to Olympia to plead on his behalf. Satterberg encouraged Dozier to apply for clemency after conducting a review of three strikes cases, and he explained to the board that his office, now exercising discretion over whether to prosecute defendants under the law, no longer does so in cases involving only robbery.
"Usually if prosecutors are here, it's to argue against the petition," said board member Cheryl Terry. Nonetheless, she and board member John Turner seemed even more impressed by the testimony of Lillian Dozier, who married Stevan in 1989 but watched in dismay as he started to use drugs and spend his time on the streets. His eventual sentencing, in 1994, hit her "like an earthquake," she said. Feeling angry and betrayed, she said, she filed for divorce. But she told of Stevan recontacting her in 2000. "It took me quite a while to realize that Stevan had finally grown up." They remarried in 2007.
Board members indicated they trusted her judgement that Stevan had changed. "His wife was the one who had the most to forgive," said Terry.
Steven Dozier himself also testified by phone from prison. "I come here today to ask the board to view me as the person I've come to be and not the disgusting person I was," he said. "That man is dead." He said he has been drug and infraction free for many years, has become religious, and mentors young inmates in prison.
Smith, the board chair, asked him if he was ready to accept the "pressure" of potentially being held under the spotlight as the first three-striker to be released from prison. "Yes I am," Dozier said. He noted that he had discussed that issue with conservative talk radio host John Carlson, who visited Dozier in prison. Carlson helped craft the three strikes law but is supporting Dozier's petition.