The family of a convicted murderer, a former addict and a recovering alcoholic were among those who asked the state’s highest powers for forgiveness and to clear their criminal record Wednesday.
But of the 18 cases reviewed by Minnesota Board of Pardons, few were granted clemency Wednesday afternoon.
The panel consists of Attorney General Lori Swanson, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea and Gov. Mark Dayton. If all three agree, the pardon board gives lawbreakers a final chance for forgiveness.
The family of David Doppler, an Inver Grove Heights man serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, pleaded his case.
Doppler, who was convicted in the shooting death of 22-year-old Michael Sargent in 1995, when he was 19, wrote a letter to the board apologizing for the “pain I have caused” to Sargent’s family.
“I’m committed to being accountable every day,” Doppler, now 39, wrote in a letter read by his mother, Kathryn Kelley-Pietz. “To be a better person. … My main desire is to repair the pain I caused and see Mike’s family and my family heal.”
After Sargent’s mother read a prepared statement calling Doppler a “coldblooded murderer,” the pardon board denied the request.
Among those granted forgiveness Wednesday was 68-year-old Eugene Fish, a recovering alcoholic who sought a pardon to get a better job to support his grandchildren, and Gina Evans, a former addict who now works at a nonprofit sharing her story.
Evans, who was wiped clean of 15 offenses, told the board about the mistakes she made in the past, losing custody of her children, and then changing her life by being involved in Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge and graduating college.
“You seem to have a remarkable experience and overcoming that, I support a pardon,” Gildea told Evans.
Fish said he was convicted of aggravated assault with a dangerous weapons after he broke into his ex-wife’s home and shot his gun at the floor.
“Drinking had an effect on my thoughts that night,” he told the pardon board.
Fish said he turned his life around and became sober after he and his wife were granted custody of their grandchildren when their daughter drowned in 2009.
“He is not a violent person,” said his wife, Alison Fish.
When the board granted his pardon, Fish jumped up and asked, “That’s it?”
“Take good care of your grandkids,” Dayton told Fish.