Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

December 29, 2012

Judgment: Granholm's 2nd decision will stand

She signed commutation order, then rescinded it

DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Court of Appeals said Friday that courts lack the authority to intervene in a case in which former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, before leaving office, commuted a convicted murderer's sentence, then quickly reversed course before he was set free.

Matthew Makowski's lawyers, including University of Michigan law professor Paul Reingold and former state Supreme Court Justice Charles Levin, argued that Granholm's commutation order was final the moment she signed and filed the official documents.

Granholm commuted Makowski's sentence of life without parole in one of her final acts as governor in 2010, but in an unprecedented move for a Michigan governor, she rescinded the order within 48 hours, on Christmas Eve, when the victim's family protested. They said they were never told that Makowski was being considered for release and only read of the commutation in the news.

In a 3-0 decision, appeals court judges Mark Cavanagh, Peter O'Connell and Pat Donofrio said there is nothing in the law to support Makowski's attorneys' position, saying Michigan governors have a "clear and exclusive constitutional power" in commutation matters.

"A judicial decision on (Makowski's) challenge to the former governor's decision on his commutation application would, at minimum, imply lack of respect for the executive branch of government," the court said.

"More importantly, the exercise of judicial power on this matter would have the effect of invading the exclusive province of the governor to coerce an outcome that is contrary to the former governor's clear intention on a matter that was exclusively within her constitutional power," the court said.

Makowski, 45, is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of a health club co-worker in Dearborn in 1988. He admits he arranged the robbery of Pietro "Pete" Puma, but he wasn't present when it occurred and didn't know it would lead to the 19-year-old's death.

Reingold and Makowski's mother, Patricia Makowski, didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.

Makowski's supporters note that he's had a virtually unblemished record after more than 20 years in prison. They said he's become a devout Roman Catholic and led many inmates to Christianity.

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