Remember Eric Pizer, the Iraq War veteran who wanted to become a law enforcement officer, but couldn't because he tried to stop a fight, only to wind up with a felony conviction because of a capricious Grant County assistant district attorney?
Pizer, who joined the Marines after 9/11 and served two tours in Iraq, was home in 2004 for only two days when he stepped between a friend and an angry Boscobel man who had accused the friend of fooling around with his wife.
When the angry husband wouldn't back down, Pizer wound up landing one punch that broke the guy's nose. The assistant district attorney decided to throw the book at him, and charged him with a felony for what should have been a misdemeanor. Pizer wound up being convicted, placed on two years of probation and ordered to pay $7,200 to fix the nose.
It was Pizer's only brush with law, but a costly one — because after completing the educational requirements to become a police officer, a job that seemed a perfect fit with his military combat experience, he discovered that a felony prevented him from carrying a gun.
He appealed to then-Gov. Scott Walker to grant him a pardon. But, despite numerous pleas from veterans' groups, Walker had stubbornly decided that he wouldn't grant any pardons to anyone — period. It was yet another example of his single-minded way of governing.
I received a note recently from Madison attorney David Relles, who tried to help Pizer obtain a pardon.
Relles presented the governor with dozens of letters he received from people who sympathized with Pizer's plight. One was from the guy Pizer punched. Another was from a young University of Wisconsin graduate who told of how her dad, who had two felonies on his record, received a pardon after serving his sentences. That enabled him to get a good job which, in turn, allowed him to send his kids to college. Yes, a governor's humanity can make a big difference in people's lives.
Yet, Walker refused to even set up a pardon board to review and consider pardon recommendations, Relles pointed out.
"I believe that it was and is the Wisconsin governor's duty to consider pardons for worthy individuals since the governor is the only one who can provide this necessary adjunct to the criminal justice system," he said in the note.
Relles, though, is holding out hope that this will change under Gov. Tony Evers.
Evers has indeed said he would consider pardons during his governorship like all his predecessors, except Walker, did throughout Wisconsin history. He indicated that his office is in the process of creating such procedures.
Relles hopes that Evers will take a humanitarian approach and create a pardon board for Wisconsin, that the pardon board will be nonpartisan, that only those who are worthy of receiving a pardon will be recommended for a pardon, that the pardon board will not be swayed by "connections" and that anyone seeking a pardon will be able to apply without needing an attorney to advocate on his or her behalf.
The last time I talked with Eric Pizer, which was about two years ago, he wasn't sure he would apply for a pardon should Walker be voted out of office. He had landed a good job and, besides, he was now 35 and probably too old to seek a law enforcement job.
That's too bad, because deserving people need a second chance. Unfortunately Walker, a self-proclaimed devout Christian, didn't believe in that.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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