‘It’s been such a whirlwind.’ Man cherishing freedom as Louisville Forum tackles Bevin’s controversial pardons

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For 17 years, Blake Walker lived behind bars, but this past December, Walker walked out of Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in La Grange, Kentucky, as a free man. “It’s been such a whirlwind,” Walker said. “I found out Tuesday night and Wednesday the 11th I left prison.” 

Walker was sentenced to life in prison in 2003 for killing his parents when he was 16 years old. He said his family had reached out to former Governor Matt Bevin, seeking a commutation of his sentence, and was surprised when Bevin gave him a full, unconditional pardon. “I now have two jobs and I’m going to school this year. I’m finishing my associate’s degree at JCTC,” he said.

Walker is one of hundreds who received a pardon from Bevin right before he left office, but many of those pardons have stirred up controversy. New Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has called on the FBI to formally investigate the pardons, especially the case of Patrick Baker, who was convicted of reckless homicide. Baker’s family raised more than $20,000 for Bevin’s campaign.

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Walker was present at the Louisville Forum’s monthly luncheon Wednesday with this month’s topic surrounding the governor’s pardon power. 

With all the controversy surrounding Bevin’s pardons causing some to call for changes, University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law professor Sam Marcosson brought up three possible options.

The first option would be an amendment to the constitution that would eliminate the governor’s pardon altogether, but Marcosson said that is very unlikely to happen.

“I think there would be very little support for that but perhaps I’m wrong on that,” he said.

The second option would be to make certain crimes ineligible for pardons.

“If we decided certain crimes were simply so heinous and the people who committed them were so dangerous that we should make it impossible for the governor to exercise the pardon power, we could do that,” he said.

And the third option would be to create a pardon advisory board, which other states like Wisconsin and North Dakota have already adopted. And the third… creating a pardon advisory board… which other states like Wisconsin and North Dakota have adopted.

“We could limit the governor’s powers in some way by the creation of an advisory board that would be a filter that would screen out applications,” Marcosson said. Walker said he would not comment on Bevin’s other pardons, but said he and his family are very thankful to Bevin for his second chance.

“I think that I am a different man than I was 17 years ago,” he said. “I’m not the same kid who was on drugs and alcohol and ashamed of who he was and every time I looked in the mirror, I was saddened by what I saw. That is not who I am anymore.”

More stories on this topic:

AG Daniel Cameron requests FBI investigation into Bevin pardons

Man pardoned by Bevin dies in possible drug overdose days after release

Man convicted of 2014 murder says he should have been pardoned by Bevin