A murderer pardoned by Gov. Charles Turnbull is not eligible to have his criminal record expunged, according to an opinion by V.I. Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady.
Dean Alonzo Molloy was convicted of second-degree murder and possession of a dangerous weapon on May 10, 1990, and served a prison sentence before he was pardoned by Turnbull in 2006.
Following that pardon, Molloy petitioned the Superior Court to expunge his record, meaning that all traces of his criminal past would be wiped clean from court files.
Brady found that “no provision of the Virgin Islands Code provides for expungement of felony convictions, and thus the Petition will be denied,” according to an opinion released on Dec. 19.
In his petition for expungement, Molloy had cited a 2015 case in which petitioner Jaime Roebuck was granted expungement of records relating to several convictions, including felonies, following a gubernatorial pardon.
The court in that case determined that expungement was appropriate under the Revised Organic Act, “which absolves an offender who is granted a pardon from all guilt.”
But that quoted language doesn’t actually appear in the Revised Organic Act, which says only of the governor’s executive authority to pardon that, “He may grant pardons and reprieves and may remit fines and forfeitures for offenses against local laws.”
Instead, the quote cited in the Roebuck case was taken from an annotation in the bound volume of the V.I. Code, which includes a 1939 opinion of District Attorney James Bough, meaning that it was essentially just a statement made by a lawyer, not binding law, according to Brady’s opinion.
“The majority of jurisdictions that have addressed the issue have held contrary to the Roebuck court’s determination that the receipt of an executive pardon by a convicted offender absolves him of all guilt and entitles him to expungement of his criminal records. Rather, the law in most jurisdictions that have addressed the issue is to the effect that pardoned individuals are not entitled to records expunction unless mandated by statute,” Brady found in his opinion on Molloy’s petition.
Brady clarified that an executive pardon and judicial expungement of criminal records “are two different remedies that serve two distinct purposes,” and pardons do not automatically entitle an individual to expungement.
While the governor has the power to pardon, “the power to grant or deny a petition for expungement is vested in the courts alone,” Brady wrote, and cited a 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in which pardon power is described as “an executive prerogative of mercy, not of judicial record-keeping.”
Without a change to the V.I. Code, “the Court is without authority to expunge records of a felony conviction,” Brady wrote.