Regular visitors to Hub Politics might be forgiven for thinking that exactly 30 seconds after he takes his oath of office, Deval Patrick will jump into his limo and drive out to Shirley to personally free Benjamin LaGuer (and then point him in the direction of the white women).
Unfortunately for Hub Politics' finely developed sense of schadenfreude, Patrick could not unlock LaGuer's cell door on Jan. 1 even if he wanted to. Unlike, say, the governors of Texas or Alabama, Massachusetts governors can only recommend commutations to the Governor's Council, an elected holdover from pre-Revolution days that must approve all commutations (thanks to that pesky Part 2, Chapter II, Section I, Article VIII of the state constitution).
There are nine councilors - the lieutenant governor and councilors elected from eight districts across the state. The council doesn't always do what the governor wants. Just ask Norman Porter, who fled Massachusetts after the governor's council rejected Michael Dukakis's proposed commutation of a murder charge.