President Donald Trump has granted clemency to several controversial people, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump’s friend and political operative Roger Stone. But what about the people who have applied through the official process and are waiting for answers? 

In 2019, we met Charles “Duke” Tanner, a former boxer who was sentenced to life in federal prison after being convicted of a nonviolent drug trafficking crime, his first offense. His arrest came during the war on drugs, which started in the 1980s, disproportionately putting tens of thousands of Black men in prison for decades. Tanner applied for clemency twice, his application just one among 13,000 others waiting for a decision at the federal Office of the Pardon Attorney when our show about him first aired on Reveal. 

In this piece for the PBS NewsHour, in the wake of receiving clemency from Trump, we accompany Tanner back to Gary, Indiana, as he plans a boxing comeback. We also explore why Tanner’s sentence commutation was so unusual for this administration.

Michael I Schiller can be reached at mschiller@revealnews.org, and David Ritsher can be reached at dritsher@revealnews.org.

Michael I Schiller

Michael I Schiller is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal. His Emmy Award-winning work spans animation, radio and documentary film.

“The Dead Unknown,” a video series he directed about the crisis of America's unidentified dead, earned a national News and Documentary Emmy Award, national Edward R. Murrow Award and national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award.

His 2015 animated documentary short film “The Box,” about youth solitary confinement, was honored with a video journalism award from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California chapter, a San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Award and a New Orleans Film Festival special jury prize, and it was nominated for a national News and Documentary Emmy for new approaches.

Schiller was one the producers of the pilot episode of the Peabody Award-winning Reveal radio show and podcast. He continues to regularly produce audio documentaries for the weekly public radio show, which airs on over 450 stations nationwide. Schiller is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

David Ritsher is the senior editor for TV and documentaries for Reveal. He has produced and edited award-winning investigative documentaries for over 15 years, on subjects ranging from loose nukes in Russia to Latino gangs in Northern California. His work has appeared on FRONTLINE, PBS NewsHour, ABC News, National Geographic, Discovery, KQED and other national broadcast outlets. Before joining CIR, David was the coordinating producer for FRONTLINE/World for over six broadcast seasons and championed much of its experimentation with video on the web.