Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Political Science and University Honors


Political Science

First Advisor

Phil Keisling


Governors -- United States -- Powers and duties, Clemency, Capital punishment




Capital punishment is a controversial sentence reserved for the worst of the worst crimes. State citizens and legislatures have addressed the use of the death penalty in different ways. To mitigate capital punishment, governors have been granted the power to issue clemency for inmates in the criminal justice system. This clemency power is an essential component of the executive’s ability to ensure checks and balances between the three branches of government. This report investigates the overlapping relationship between a governor’s ability to affect the death penalty through acts of clemency. Four Governors in the United States have issued death penalty moratoriums in the recent years: Oregon Governor Kitzhaber in 2011, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper in 2013, Washington Governor Jay Inslee in 2014, and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf in 2015. This analysis investigates the constitutional basis for governors’ issuance of sweeping moratoriums to better understand the scope of gubernatorial clemency power. Furthermore, this investigation argues that these moratoriums are not an overreach of gubernatorial clemency powers and fall within the scope of clemency powers.

Persistent Identifier