Last clemency meeting ahead of election more generous than normal

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The constitutionality of Florida’s clemency process is pending review from a federal appeals court after being ruled unconstitutional by a lower court.

The clemency board met for the last time Tuesday, ahead of a vote on a constitutional amendment that could dramatically change the state’s process.

Takesha Tyler was arrested for domestic violence in 1998.

Her case was one of 90 before the executive clemency board.

Three years after applying she was given her civil rights back.

“We did it. I have one more stage. I'm actually going to try for a pardon," said Tyler.

Michael William waited eleven years before having his rights restored.

“It's been a road that's just been unbelievable to go down," said William.

On this day, the board was particularly generous and granted clemency to most who showed up in person.

The board hasn’t been so supportive in recent years.

Many credit the criticism from a federal judge and Late Night Talk Show Host John Oliver's scathing report on Florida's process which aired Sunday night for the change of heart.

Introducing his segment on civil rights disenfranchisement Oliver said, “The worst state of all concerning this and arguably everything else, is Florida.”

Oliver’s report took aim at the arbitrary nature of the state’s process.

It included multiple clips where Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis asked felons if they went to church as an example.

No questions of faith were asked in the meeting Tuesday.

President of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Richard Greenberg represents clients in clemency meetings on a regular basis.

"John Oliver will probably take most of the credit. If you watched his show the other night, it was an exposé on how the clemency process has been handled in the state of Florida the last few years. I think it's a good step forward to be granting more of these applications," said Greenberg.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam stood by the current process for certain felons.

“When you have someone who is a child molester, they ought to be in front of us and explain," said Putnam.

But when asked if he supported Amendment 4, which would automatically restore the right for nonviolent felons to vote he said no.

Many who earned that right back Tuesday morning say Amendment 4 has their support.

Sixty percent of Florida voters will have to approve amendment four in order for it to pass.