Gov. Haslam grants clemency to 4 Tennesseans

Tennessee
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On Thursday, Gov. Bill Haslam granted executive clemency to four Tennesseans.  

In a release, the governor said in part, “After thoughtfully considering the circumstances of each of their cases, I believe exercising the executive clemency power will help further these individuals’ positive influence on their communities and the lives of their fellow Tennesseans.” 

Among the four who received clemency, include Michelle Martin, Ralph Reagan, Robert  Sheard Jr. and Steven Kennedy.  

Martin’s sentence of 25 years of incarceration was commuted to supervised parole, effective Dec. 20, 2018, and continuing until Dec. 31, 2020. 

Martin pleaded to second-degree murder in 2004 on Bledsoe County for the 2001 homicide of her father. The homicide happened after she confronted him about abuse against her mother and the severe sexual and drug abuse he committed upon Martin beginning when she was four years old.  

While in prison, Martin has obtained her GED and earned a degree through Lipscomb University, becoming the first person in her family to go to college.  

According to a release, Martin has “personified model behavior as an inmate and has served as a mentor and leader to other inmates.”  

Reagan received a pardon for his 1980 and 1982 convictions for burglary in Cumberland County and his 1984 conviction for escape in Knox County.  

He has earned a doctorate in theology, served in ministry with First Baptist Church of Crossville and began the Bread of Life Rescue Mission in Crossville. The organization provides food, shelter and other needed services to underprivileged citizens.  

Reagan has also provided prison counseling for several years and was named “Citizen of the Year” by the Cumberland County Bar Association in 2008 for his service in the community.  

The Board of Parole unanimously recommended granting Reagan a pardon, and numerous Cumberland County leaders wrote in support of his request. 

Sheard received a pardon for the 1984 conviction of misdemeanor assault and battery in Shelby County.  

Sheard, a graduate of LeMoyne-Owen College, subsequently served for more than 30 years as an employee of the City of Memphis, including time spent working as a juvenile probation officer, maintained employment with a large, Memphis-based corporation for many years, and mentored youth in his community.  

He submitted letters of support from several community members attesting to his character and community contributions, and the Board of Parole unanimously recommended granting Sheard a pardon. 

Kennedy received a pardon for his 1979 conviction of aiding and abetting the fraudulent use of a credit card in Sullivan County.  

Kennedy joined the Navy in 1981 and served overseas in Beirut, Kosovo, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Shield and Afghanistan before being honorably discharged in 2008. 

Several military colleagues submitted letters attesting to Kennedy’s character, and the Board of Parole unanimously recommended granting him a pardon. 

Executive clemency is an act of mercy or leniency by the governor after a criminal conviction.   

“These individuals have distinguished themselves in both their rehabilitation and their individual contributions to the community,” Haslam said.  

The governor continues to review and consider additional clemency requests. 

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