Commutation – the act of reducing a sentence resulting from a criminal conviction by the executive

clemency of the Governor of the State, or President of the United States in the case of federal crimes. This

is not the same as a pardon which wipes out the conviction or the actual or potential charge (as when

President Gerald R. Ford pardoned ex-President Richard M. Nixon even without charges having been

officially made– a rare instance). A pardon implies either that the conviction was wrong, that there has

been complete rehabilitation of the party, or that he/she has lived an exemplary life for many years and

deserves to have his/her name cleared in old age. Commutation implies the penalty was excessive or there

has been rehabilitation, reform, or other circumstances such as good conduct or community service.

Commutation is sometimes used when there is evidence that the defendant was not guilty but it would

prove embarrassing to admit an outright error by the courts