Minnesota panel grants rare pardons to 7 with criminal histories

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The state's Board of Pardons has granted clemency to seven people with criminal histories but who were deemed worthy of a second chance.

The board meets just twice a year, and the "Pardon Extraordinary" rulings are rare. The panel is made up of three high-profile members: the state's governor, attorney general and the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Each member has an equal vote on pardons, and votes must be unanimous.

A pardon is a form of clemency in which the applicant is no longer required to report their conviction, except in limited circumstances, the board notes. A pardon can help an applicant in job seeking and remove a social stigma. The legal effect of a Pardon Extraordinary is the vacation of the conviction, although the pardon itself is a part of public record.

Applicants must have served their time, and the board seeks to be convinced that applicants have also learned from their crimes and put their lives back on track.

This year, pardons were approved for applicants who had convictions for forgery, drug use and theft, but not for applicants with convictions for assault, sexual misconduct and possession of child pornography, the Associated Press reports.

Jaena Raines was among those who won a pardon, the AP reports. She told the board a misdemeanor conviction for check forgery and wrongfully obtaining assistance had been a stumbling block to an accounting career, the AP says. At the time, she was fleeing a bad marriage and struggling to raise three daughters, but since she has earned two college degrees, the AP notes. "I did what I did and to this day I feel horrible about it," she told the board.

The pardons board meets for two annual meetings, each spring and fall. Last year, the board considered a total of 41 applications for pardon and granted 20, according to an annual report.

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