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"Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don't. ... That's what the emperors had. A man stole something. He's brought in before the emperor, he throws himself down on the floor, he begs for mercy. He knows he's going to die. And the emperor pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go. That's power, Amon. That is power."
Oskar Schindler, Schindler's List

A pardon is a legal practice, whereby a criminal's offenses are legally blotted out, or a conviction is erased. Normally this can be issued only by the highest-ranking authorities around — the emperor, the king, the president.

Fictionally the overwhelming use of them is to allow the Lovable Rogue (or, less often, a less charismatic villain) to get off the hook by doing the kingdom a great favor: the bandits who protect the prince who had to flee invaders, the Gentleman Thief who prevents a murder in a household he is robbing, the pickpocket who reveals that the Evil Sorcerer had an Artifact of Doom, or other criminals who for once put their talents to good use. This can either lead to a Happy Ending — even if they can not bear to give up In Harm's Way, they can often be recruited to work for the good guys, which may indeed be a condition of the pardon — or last until they break the law again in a series. In the later case, it often acts much like a Mercy Lead.

The Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist may actually catch his prey once or twice, only to be stymied by this.

Historical Fiction, or a Feudal Future, may use an ancient tradition of pardoning some, or all, criminals on special occasions, such as the ascension of a new king, or to dramatize the clemency of the king. Such a general pardon can also feature after the Witch Hunt, or when the Reign of Terror lurches into a Full-Circle Revolution, while everyone has lost the fervor and is feeling ashamed of the bloodshed.

Corrupt or evil authorities may use it for full-blown villains, keeping them in the story.

Super-Trope of Last-Minute Reprieve. The Boxed Crook is often offered one, as are criminals Trading Bars for Stripes. Whether it's for real is another matter. Can be used as a "Get Out of Jail Free" Card; the pardon may be conditional on their joining a team. Compare Statute of Limitations, where the criminal is off the hook after sufficient time has elapsed.

Too many Real Life examples to list them all — include only notably striking cases. The Other Wiki has more here.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, Shinn Asuka is arrested and confined to the brig after returning a prisoner of war to the enemy (she was dying, and only the enemy had the facilities to save her), as is Rey za Burrel for aiding him. However, Chairman Durandal decides that the matter should be "overlooked" and orders them to return to active duty. The reason behind this is Shinn and Rey are among his most valuable pawns in his hidden agenda, and having them locked up in military prison would really put a damper on that.
  • In Girls und Panzer, one of the incentives for joining and doing well on the Tankery team is 200 passes for lateness. Mako Reizei, an incredible student who has been late 235 times, needs them. Later on, Midoriko Sono, the head of the Moral's Committee, promises during the finals that if Oorai wins, thus saving the school from closure, then she'll delete Mako's entire truancy record. She holds up her promise when they do win.
  • One Piece:
    • This is the center of Franky's backstory. His mentor Tom was put on trial for building the Pirate King's ship, the Oro Jackson, and sentenced to death, but managed to get a stay of execution in exchange for working on the Sea Train, a way of connecting Water 7 with nearby islands. Eventually, he succeeded, and Spandam's attempt to get the plans to Pluton under the justification of Tom being a criminal failed, since Tom was pardoned and (unknown to Spandam) passed the blueprints on to Iceberg. As a result, Spandam and his Cipher Pol 5 operatives stole Franky's ships to frame him, Tom, and Iceberg for attacking the courthouse ship. Tom, however, asked that the pardon be used on the crimes of attacking the court ship, and while he was sentenced to death, the Pluton blueprints remained safe.
    • Being based off Privateers, the Shichibukai also benefit from this when they ally themselves with the World Government. The pardons are all revoked with the rest of their privileges whenever a Warlord leaves the system via any means, with their bounties reinstated.

  • In Robin Hood ballads:
    • Robin Hood and the Monk Little John and Much the Miller's son trick a pardon out of the king, who does not know the extent of their slaughter, but the king is bound thereafter.
    • A Gest of Robyn Hode: King Edward sneaks in to the forest and meets the bandits, pardoning them afterwards.
  • Child Ballads:
    • In Child Ballad 169 "Johnnie Armstrong", he and his band are lured to court with a promise of safe conduct. He asks for a pardon. Instead the king treacherously tries to arrest them.
    • Child Ballad 209 "Geordie" is about a woman pleading for Geordie's life. Sometimes he's pardoned.
    • In Child Ballad 182 "The Laird o Logie", May Margaret pleads for a pardon for Young Logie (or Ochiltrie). She fails but falsifies one and frees him.

    Comic Books 
  • The Incredible Hulk: In issue 280 Bruce Banner gets a presidential pardon after he gains mental control of his Hulk form. In a combination Mythology Gag/potential Exact Words scenario, the pardon is made out to David Banner.
  • In his first appearance in The Brave and the Bold, Time Commander was seeking a pardon for a crime his civilian identity supposedly was innocent of. (It's never revealed whether he actually had been innocent, as his new crimes overrode the idea of a pardon.)
  • The very first issue of Superman opens with him breaking into a governor's mansion in order to force the governor to pardon a woman who's about to be executed by the electric chair, as Superman has caught the woman who was the real criminal.
  • In the Judge Dredd story "In the Event of My Death...", during a Mob War in Mega-City One, one mobster turns to the Judges, offering information in exchange for a pardon. Because he knows the Judges like pulling Exact Words on these things, he's very clear that this pardon should cover all his known crimes, any unknown crimes, and anything he's done that the Judges retroactively make a crime. He's just leading Dredd into a deathtrap, though.

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, it's Discussed that while Samantha Shepard did legitimately commit war crimes during her Heroic BSoD, the authorities with the power to enact punishment against her will permanently stay their hands due to the stakes. A second case of a legitimate Heel–Face Turn flummoxes the Citadel Council because they can't actually think of a suitable means to exact retribution against the person. It's kind of hard to take money from someone who has zero need for it, lock up someone who can teleport, or condemn someone to rot in a cell when as far as everyone can tell the person in question is immortal/unkillable. So no sentence would have any effect.
  • In The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, Umbridge tried to have the Sorting Hat arrested. Dumbledore forces a pardon out of Minister Fudge, who is not happy that Umbridge forced him to do something so ridiculous as issue an official pardon to a piece of headwear.
  • Some Harry Potter fanfics where Sirius Black's name is cleared have it described as him being pardoned.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: The entire Changeling Race gets pardoned for the crimes of Queen Chrysalis and her hive after it comes out that a Changeling was part of the group of six that defeated their enemy and saved Equestria in the climax.
  • In Luz Belos: Princess of the Boiling Isles, Belos offers Eda the Owl Lady full amnesty for her various crimes (including not participating in the coven system) in exchange for being Luz's new teacher.
  • The Pirate's Soldier: Ryoko gets a pardon from the Jurai Empire in exchange for becoming Heero's Royal Guard. For her, it's a win-win deal as she not only gets her criminal record erased but also she gets to be close to him.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Prince of Egypt, after Moses returns from his self-imposed exile for accidentally killing an Egyptian foreman, his adoptive brother Ramses, now Pharaoh, pardons him of his crime.
  • In Tangled, implicit in the epilogue, where all the thugs from the Snuggly Duckling are living out their dreams, and Flynn himself, who had already been slated for execution, gets to marry the princess instead.
  • Queen Victoria pardons the main character of piracy in The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists. Unfortunately, that disqualifies him from the pirate competition.
  • Robin Hood (1973): The epilogue shows a "Pardoned by Order of King Richard" sign covering Robin Hood's wanted poster.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Adventures of Robin Hood, Robin's first request when King Richard asks what his reward should be is a pardon for his men.
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?: The protagonist fugitive Soggy Bottom Boys are pardoned for their crimes by Mississippi Governor Pappy O'Daniel (note, irl, O'Daniel was governor of Texas). The sheriff who's been chasing the fugitives doesn't care about the pardon and tries to hang them anyway.
  • In Captain Blood, Lord Willoughby offers the titular character both a pardon and a commission from the British King - which Blood and his men eagerly accept once they're told that the Glorious Revolution has taken place, King James has been deposed and exiled and that it's King William making the offer.
  • A full pardon of their capital offenses was the incentive for the main characters of The Dirty Dozen to volunteer for the film's mission. Only one of them lives to get pardoned, the rest just get posthumously declared to have died in the line of duty instead of being executed.
  • Escape from New York. Snake Plissken is offered a Presidential pardon for all of the federal crimes he committed. The catch: the President is currently held prisoner inside the New York Maximum Security Penitentiary, so Snake has to rescue him before he can get the pardon.
  • I Shot Jesse James: Main character Robert Ford kills his best friend Jesse James in order to get this. He gets it, but he finds that the guilt of killing Jesse and the reputation it's given him make him question whether it was really worth it.
  • In the 1977 The Man With The Iron Mask, Phillippe is rescued from prison by a pardon; earlier, the king had asked why, and the minister had explained it was the release of a minor offender to celebrate his clemency.
  • At the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Admiral Kirk and crew are arraigned before the Federation Council where their numerous violations of regulations are listed, then all charges but one are dismissed due to "certain extenuating circumstances," i.e. saving the world. (The remaining charge results in Admiral Kirk getting busted back to Captain.)
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, after Katniss kills President Coin, she's told to stay hidden until emotions die down a bit and the next President can officially pardon her.
  • Guilt by Association: President Clinton commutes many sentences of prisoners serving time under the drug laws' mandatory minimums, which gives hope to Susan and others sentenced by the same laws. Later, she is one of the other prisoners who have their long sentences commuted too.
  • A Non-Criminal Type: In the movie version of The Prince and the Pauper, Errol Flynn's character, Miles Hedon, rescues Prince Edward Tudor, but fails to recognize him (since Tom [the pauper]) is in court. Since Edward still acts like a royal, he forbids Miles from sitting in his presence. Finally, Miles convinces Edward to "grant" him the privilege. Later, after Edward has been crowned king, Miles gets bored during his coronation speech and sits on the steps of the dias. The other court members are incensed until Edward confirms that he (and all his descendants) can sit in the presence of royalty.
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Blofeld's demand is not another ransom, but a pardon for his past crimes and formal recognition of his (implied to be illegitimate) aristocratic title. He would have gotten away with it too, if he hadn't made the mistake of holding prisoner a daughter of a Union Corse crime boss that James Bond can call on for his Men of Sherwood.
  • In My Country: The focus of the film is on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation process, where those who had committed atrocities during the Apartheid era would confess their crimes, ask forgiveness, then be granted amnesty. Most get it, but in the case of De Jager his crimes are viewed as so highly disproportionate that amnesty is denied and he will stand trial.

  • In the Chivalric Romance Gamelyn, Gamelyn violently resists one brother's attempt to cheat him of his inheritance and use false jurors to condemn him. When the king discovers the truth, he pardons him and his brother who helped him, and installs them as royal officials.
  • In Leslie Charteris's The Saint, the one time the police had the Saint dead to rights, he had prevented a train carrying members of the royal family from being bombed. He's pardoned.
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, career criminal Mulch is given an amnesty for all past crimes after saving the city of Haven from being destroyed. He tries to push for all future crimes as well but is told not to push his luck.
  • Happens in Victory of Eagles to Laurence to give him reason to fight in a war not understanding his honor before reason he would have fought anyway if given the chance and had already done some fighting. However it's revoked (mostly) when England wants Temeraire gone and need a pretext send him away.
    • Another one is issued to Laurence, complete with restoration of his rank, in Crucible of Gold along with orders to keep Brazil/Portugal-in-Exile from being shattered by the Tswana.
  • In Warhammer 40,000:
    • The driving motivation of The Last Chancers.
    • Amberly Vail offers one to the troopers who were condemned to a penal battalion if they act as an escort to a dangerous mission — much to Ciaphas Cain's distress, at the thought of reintegrating them with the regiment. This ends up being a moot point as none of them survive the mission.
  • John Grisham:
    • A presidential pardon starts off the plot of The Broker.
    • In The Brethren the protagonists are inmates in a federal prison who find themselves in possession of blackmail material that might get them all killed or might get them a presidential pardon.
    • In The Firm one of Mitch McDeere's conditions for helping the FBI include getting his brother pardoned.
  • Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series:
    • Executive Orders has President Ryan giving a pardon to CIA agent John Clark, erasing the crimes the latter committed in the prequel novel Without Remorse (Which wouldn't have been legal since Clark's crimes were against state law, not federal law, and Jack wasn't Governor of Maryland).
    • In The Teeth of the Tiger, before leaving office Ryan creates a stack of pardons with the names blank, for use by the organization he sets up for covert action against the United States' enemies when the official government agencies are either incapable of acting for whatever reason.
  • In Courtship Rite, Joesai gets a pardon from exile when his brother/co-husband Hoemei becomes the new Prime Predictor of the Kaiel clan.
  • In Jasper Fforde's The Last Dragonslayer, Jennifer gets one at the end.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, imperial regent Aral Vorkosigan handed around pardons very freely after the Pretendership, for those who technically broke the law in their efforts to reverse the effects of a coup. He also pardons most of the enlisted and junior officers who fought on the other side on the grounds that they were trained to stick with their units - it's the fault of the senior officers that they were dragged into treason.
  • In Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the King of Hearts hands out pardons as freely as the Queen does sentences of beheading, though he's somewhat lower key about it.
  • In Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Wimsey novel Nine Tailors, a man deceived his French wife about his need to hide after World War I as a deserter; in fact, there was a pardon for deserters, but he had other reasons to lie low.
  • In Seanan McGuire's October Daye novels:
    • Late Eclipses at the end, Sylvester produces one for Toby.
    • Ashes Of Honor: Tybalt observes that he can pardon or punish Raj as he sees fit.
  • In David Brin's The Uplift War, after a subordinate kills his superior for trying to violate the laws of war, he is pardoned for it.
  • President Buckman, in the backstory for Caliphate, uses the power of presidential pardon as a weapon against Americans he politically opposes, pardoning all but one person who murdered the opponents (the exception was due to the murderer having been determined to have killed purely as revenge for an affair between the victim and the killer's wife, and had nothing to do with political issues).
  • In Mockingjay Katniss agrees to be the face of the rebellion in exchange for a full pardon for the victors who are being held by the Capitol.
  • In Poul Anderson's Technic History story "The Man Who Counts", when an alien woman is unable to get a pardon for her husband, she poisons the leader, and blackmails his son by threatening to accuse him of poisoning his father, getting the pardon.
  • In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, Princess Ludorica thinks Roane is a smuggler and offers her a free pardon (and money) if she helps.
  • In The Wheel of Time, Elayne pardons Thom Merrilin of any crimes he committed in Andor and Cairhien, including the assassination of King Galldrian.
  • In Julie Kagawa's The Iron Queen, Oberon and Mab offer Meghan a pardon, remitting the sentence of exile for dealing with the new Iron King.
  • At the end of Solo Command, Han Solo and Wedge Antilles discuss this in relation to Gara Petothel, aka Lara Notsil, aka Kirney Slane, who was an Imperial Intelligence agent and spied against the New Republic but then defected and dealt immeasurable damage to Warlord Zsinj's fleet. However, they conclude that (being a fleet general and a fighter commander) they really don't have the authority to issue a pardon, and the only person they could really ask (Princess Leia) is off on other duties and can't be contacted. In the end, they compromise, deleting the (admittedly circumstantial, but quite persuasive) evidence that she survived the book's climax from the ship's logs and declaring the case closed. Mercy Kill confirms that she survived, is happily married to Donos and they have their own travel business called "Donoslane excursions"..
  • In Peter S Beagle's The Last Unicorn, the king pardons the outlaws at the end.
  • Chinese literature on filial piety includes the righteous stepmother of Qi. When her son and stepson were found by a murdered man, and both confessed in an obvious attempt to shield each other, she said they should execute her son — both because her husband had particularly put her stepson in her care and because it was the place of her son, who was the junior and therefore inferior. For which devotion to duty both men were pardoned.
  • Invoked by Governor Kraft in Victoria. When the Deep Green militants rebel and their uprising is put down, he reprieves the captives from execution and instead just exiles them from the Confederation. In order to justify this, he argues that while they are traitors, they are less malicious than merely misguided.
    "Because they erred, they had to pay a price, and they did. The price was banishment. Had we set their lives as the price, we would have gone too far. It is useful to remind ourselves that we are all fools on occasion."
  • The Golden Gate, by Alistair MacLean. A criminal mastermind holds the President of the United States for ransom on the Golden Gate Bridge, and his final demand is a Presidential pardon. The President responds with a Cluster F-Bomb on live television. There's a sense that, even if this doesn't hold water legally because the President is being coerced, the criminal is playing to the gallery with a Refuge in Audacity.
  • In Last Son of Krypton, Superman gets Luthor's assistance with a pardon for all federal crimes. At the end of the book, he charges Luthor with a state crime.
  • Arabian Nights: In "Tale of the Trader and the Jinn", the trader in question has accidentally and unknowingly killed a Jinn's son. When he meets the Jinn a year later to die as punishment, he is met by three other men, who tell the Jinn their respective stories in an attempt to persuade him to spare the trader; in some translations, this is referred to as his agreeing to pardon the man for a portion of his crime if he finds their stories interesting enough.
  • The Elenium: The Don Platime negotiates a blanket pardon from the Queen in exchange for his loyal service from then on. When she asks what she would be pardoning him for, he delivers so extensive a List of Transgressions that she gets him to specify which crimes he hasn't committed.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Lift gets one at the end of her introductory chapter. Specifically, Lift is a member of a band of thieves and a budding Surgebinder. Nale wants to kill all Surgebinders but is honor-bound to act within the law, so he is restricted to executing criminals as an officer of the law. Since theft is punishable by death, he can legally kill Lift when he catches her breaking into the palace of the Azish Emperor—at least, until another boy in the gang is unexpectedly crowned Emperor and pardons her. Nale reluctantly leaves without a fuss.
  • So This is Ever After: Arek decides to offer the Vile One's surviving followers amnesty for them to not turn into a continuing problem, in return for swearing loyalty to him and military service (at a lower wage than other recruits).
  • Tress of the Emerald Sea: In the end, Tress negotiates a royal pardon for the Friendly Pirate crew as a reward for their role in defeating the Sorceress. Since none of them particularly wanted to be pirates in the first place, they jump at the chance to become a legitimate merchant crew.
  • Forgive Me Not: In future New York, juvenile offenders can have their crimes erased and be released immediately if they manage to convince the victim or victim's family of their guilt and are forgiven. Most can't, and have the choice between juvenile detention which stays on their record forever, or the Trials, which are activities geared to make a young offender feel remorse. While taking part in the Trials, the victim can forgive the offender at any time and are actually given livestreams/recordings of the offender's Trials. They also have a government employee telling them every so often if the offender has had progress.
  • The Afterward: Olsa was pardoned for three thefts after the quest had ended due to the help she gave to the king by helping retrieve the godsgem during it, which woke him from magical slumber. When she does this yet again though his mercy runs out, so Olsa's found guilty and sentenced to death. However, she's again spared when Kalanthe speaks for her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.:
    • Brisco & Bowler recruit chronic recidivist Pete Hutter to their Magnificent Seven Samurai plot with a promise of a full presidential pardon for all crimes he has committed.
    • Another episode has them going after a Big Bad who has a blanket pardon letter for all crimes past and future from the Governor of Louisiana. They catch him by tricking him into leaving Louisiana.
  • Kung Fu (1972). In "A Small Beheading", a sea captain played by William Shatner approaches Caine bearing a pardon from the Emperor of China for killing his nephew. The captain's Chinese wife wants Caine dead but is disturbed by the knowledge that the Emperor has no intention of honoring the pardon. Caine is able to play on her guilt and admit it's a setup.
  • In Doctor Who episode The Deadly Assassin, the Doctor's trial is rushed so that he can be executed before the new President is installed, which is traditionally celebrated with pardons for criminals. The new President would not, then, face the choice between letting his predecessor's murderer go and thwarting tradition.
  • The Rockford Files: Jim Rockford was given one of these before he opened his detective agency.
  • Part of the setup for Alias Smith and Jones was that the title characters were given amnesty for their crimes... but the governor made them wait a while. So people still think they're outlaws, and they have to keep their noses clean while people are out to get them.
  • Lois & Clark: In one episode, the President is abducted and a clone created by a scientist working for Lex Luthor replaces him. By the time the plot is exposed, Luthor is already out of prison thanks to a pardon signed by the clone.
  • House of Cards (US): After manipulating his way to the presidency, Frank Underwood pardons his predecessor Garrett Walker and businessman Raymond Tusk. Initially a fairly clever move, it comes back to bite Frank in the ass in Season 4 when Walker is able to go on the record about how he was innocent in the money laundering scheme and the Chinese trade war in Season 2, which seriously imperils Frank's administration on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): President Laura Roslin offers a pardon to the inmates on the prison ship Astral Queen if they agree to retrieve badly-needed water from an ice moon.
    • After the colonists escape from Cylon-occupied New Caprica, Roslin is re-elected president, and immediately grants a general pardon to anyone who may have collaborated with the Cylons (except for Gaius Baltar).
  • Babylon 5. After successfully rebelling against EarthGov and overthrowing the dictatorship of President Clark, Sheridan is offered clemency for those who followed him, but only if he resigns his command. It's An Offer You Can't Refuse but Sheridan has the last laugh when he's elected President of the Alliance. Turns out the pardon for his men was what he was after the whole time, and he only put on a show of being coerced. He also made sure of distributing copies of the amnesty to plenty of journalists before the announcement that he'd been made President.
  • In the two-part pilot episode of Star Trek: Discovery, Commander Michael Burnham commits The Mutiny against Captain Georgiou in an attempt to head off a war with the Klingons. She fails, over 8,000 people are killed in the opening battle (including Georgiou), and Burnham is stripped of her commission and imprisoned. Six months later, a somewhat botched prison transfer lands her on the USS Discovery, setting off a chain of events that leads to her being instrumental in ending the war and saving both The Federation and the Klingon Empire; as a result, her conviction is pardoned and her rank and commission are reinstated.
  • In Supergirl (2015), the xenophobic Ben Lockwood, alias Agent Liberty is finally captured and defeated by Supergirl, and subsequently jailed, in spite of amassing a following that supports his twisted ideology. President Baker, whose approval ratings are plummeting thanks to Liberty's imprisonment (not to mention Supergirl quit the D.E.O. when she refused to disclose her secret identity as ordered), decides to issue a pardon for the man under the loophole that the law offers protection to humans, not the aliens that Lockwood was targeting. He later issues one to Lex Luthor for saving America from invading enemy forces, as he had been acting as Luthor's pawn since the beginning, as part of a scheme to get Lex right to the top and essentially give him control of the country. However, Baker and his role in the scheme are exposed thanks to Brainiac Five, and he is not only impeached and removed, but Lockwood ends up going down with him.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Prickly City, Kevin gets one for Carmen after Soldronera and assures her it's like it never happened.

  • In Iolanthe, the title character was exiled to the bottom of a river for marrying a mortal (an offense against fairy law punishable by death). To liberate her from this miserable dwelling, the Fairy Queen pardons her in the opening scene.
  • The Producers: At the end of the show, after "Prisoners of Love," Max and Leo are given a full pardon "for having, through song and dance, brought joy and laughter into the hearts of every murderer, rapist and sex maniac in Sing Sing."

    Video Games 
  • In Fallout: New Vegas the Courier receives two invites, to work for the NCR and the Legion, both of which include amnesty for any crimes the Courier has previously carried out against these factions.
  • In the computer game Robin's Quest, among the items the player searches for are the shredded pieces of pardons for Friar Tuck, Little, Will Scarlet, et. al. Once you've found all the pieces of a particular pardon, that character joins your band of Merry Men.
  • Valkyria Chronicles III has the Gallian Army Squad 422, also known as "The Nameless". A Badass Army of convicts who win the pardon for their services in the war against The Empire.
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, a penal unit called the Spare Squadron was created to trick the Eruseans into thinking that Osea had a larger presence on Usea. When the Spare Squadron prove to be surprisingly effective at carrying out their missions, with Trigger proving to be a good enough pilot to challenge Mihaly, they’re all given a pardon and transferred into the regular forces. Trigger is further exonerated from his own conviction after further evidence surfaces.
  • Henry Stickmin Series:
    • Infiltrating the Airship starts with Henry being told that, if he helps take down the Toppat Clan according to plan, all charges against him will be dropped. The "Relentless Bounty Hunter" ending does end with Henry being given a document certifying that he's been pardoned of all his prior crimes. Furthermore, it can be assumed that Henry received the same pardon offscreen in the "Government Supported Private Investigator" ending.
    • In the Thief/Allies route of Completing the Mission, choosing The Government during the Last-Second Ending Choice leads to the "Pardoned Pals" ending, where Henry and Ellie receive a pardon.
  • PAYDAY 2 has the White House Heist, the mother of all heists that Bain planned for a long time. The crew raid the White House and steal blank pardons, which the crew use to write their own pardons and free themselves from any criminal prosecution they would have faced.


    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Abraham Lincoln once gave a pardon to his son's toy soldier.
  • President Gerald Ford gave his predecessor, Richard Nixon, a "Full and Unconditional Pardon" following his resignation for the Watergate scandal. To this day, this remains among the most controversial actions ever to have happened in American politics.
  • Colonel Thomas Blood was pardoned by King Charles II after attempting to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.
  • Mass pardons of most or all prison inmates occurred in the tumultuous history of Russia during revolutions or power shifts. One of the major ones occurred after Stalin's death: the political prisoners were all released from the gulags, but so were the real crooks. This led to crime skyrocketing in the Soviet Union.
  • The murderer of John Wesley Hardin was given a pardon by the governor, apparently on the assumption that it was effectively a public service.
  • Every year during Thanksgiving, the sitting President of the USA "pardons" a turkey so that he can go live out the rest of his days on a farm. While this is often treated as if it were a long-standing tradition, it actually is much Newer Than They Think, having originated with George H. W. Bush. John F. Kennedy is sometimes cited as precedent for the tradition, but he only spared a turkey because he thought it was too skinny to be worth eating.
    • On a more serious and controversial note, Presidents frequently pardon a number of people when heading out of office for one reason or another. Often this involves pardoning the friends or relatives of top campaign donors, or even their own friends and relatives should any of them be in need of a pardon. This tends to draw even more criticism when the person being pardoned is a fugitive from justice, rather than somebody who actually faced trial and went to prison. But since pardons are the president's only constitutional power that has no limits placed on it, he literally can pardon anyone he pleases (who is charged with a federal crime; if you're charged with/convicted of a state crime, the President can't help you, although maybe the state's governor can) and no one can legally do anything about it.
    • In fact, the Constitution seems to imply that presidents could even self-pardon themselves for crimes committed in office, but the legalese is murky. During the Watergate scandal, the Justice Department informally stated that presidents cannot self-pardon themselves, but the memo lacks legal force. Donald Trump and Richard Nixon floated this idea at the end of their terms but didn't go through with it. And the argument is that there is such a rule: nemo judex in causa sua, none may be a judge in their own case, a principle of natural justice that would make such a self-dealing pardon a mockery of proper jurisprudence. As such, it would be void immediately.
  • Sometime after the Witch Hunt in Salem, Massachusetts, all those convicted were pardoned by the governor.
  • Treason pardons have at times been given en masse after an unsuccessful revolution. The assumption is that the act of military victory itself, and selective execution of ringleaders is enough to Scare 'Em Straight, and once that is done it is important to compliment that with a reputation for magnanimity so as to leave as few grudges behind as possible. Also hanging thousands of people at once is not aesthetically attractive even if theoretically proper under the law.
    • After the American Civil War most Confederates up to Lee himself were pardoned. Jefferson Davis underwent two years' imprisonment.
      • All Confederates, including Jefferson Davis, were granted Amnesty and Pardon for the crime of treason. Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, however, forbade any Confederate who held a government or military position before the war from holding one after the war unless overridden by a two-thirds vote in each House of Congress. Neither Lee nor Davis received this full reinstatement of citizenship rights until long after their deaths.
  • Julius Caesar pardoned his political enemies left, right, and center. Part of it was strategy and part of it was subtle humiliation - in Roman society being pardoned instead of killed meant you were kind of a loser.
  • Downplayed Trope, but France had a history of presidents' first act while in office being to mass pardon parking violations.