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Pence’s 1st pardons include woman who’s seeking a doctorate

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) – A 46-year-old woman who’s among three people whose criminal convictions were erased by Gov. Mike Pence in his first gubernatorial pardons says she pursued her pardon for five years.

Marquita Braxton was convicted in Madison County in 1993 on cocaine-dealing charges and sentenced to 13 years. The former Anderson resident was released from prison in 2000 and now lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Braxton said she began working on a bachelor’s degree in her final year in prison. She earned that degree and a master’s, and is now working on a doctorate in engineering.

“I’ve been working on this for five years,” she told The Herald Bulletin ( ) about her efforts to get the pardon. “I took my family to the hearing and answered a lot of questions.”

Pence issued pardons Friday for Braxton, 41-year-old Hans Schmitter and 39-year-old Stephanie Davis in the Republican governor’s first use of his constitutional authority to pardon since taking office in January 2013. A pardon is executive forgiveness for a crime that removes penalties, such as preventing felons from being able to get a gun license, while also restoring civil rights.

Schmitter was convicted in White County in 1992 of theft, residential entry and receiving stolen property. Davis was convicted of theft in Lake County in 1999.

The Indiana Parole Board unanimously recommended all three pardons to Pence. Braxton, Schmitter and Davis all have no criminal records beyond the convictions erased by Pence’s orders.

Those orders said Schmitter has earned two associate degrees and a bachelor’s degree, while Davis has earned associate and bachelor’s degrees.

Madison Circuit Court Judge Thomas Newman Jr., who had sentenced Braxton, said he granted a motion last year to expunge her criminal convictions. That act cleared her record, but her convictions remained until Pence’s pardon erased them.

Newman said he’s proud of Braxton’s accomplishments.

“She’s a role model for everyone,” he said. “I have so much faith in the Indiana Department of Correction programs. They take people that are wounded and damaged and instill hope in them.”