Victoria Palacios, an associate professor of law at the University of Notre Dame and former chairwoman of the Utah Board of Pardons, will address the 300 graduates at the College of Eastern Utah's Price campus during commencement ceremonies on June 7.
Palacios, a native of East Carbon City, Carbon County, has just completed a year as a visiting associate professor at the South Bend (Indiana) University. She's an expert on the death penalty and sentencing.As chairwoman of the Board of Pardons, Palacios gained notoriety when the board denied Hi-Fi killer Pierre Dale Selby's request to commute his death sentence. She also presided over a commutation hearing for William Andrews, the second Hi-Fi killer, and the request for early parole for convicted killer Mark Hofmann, the master forger of LDS Church documents.
A devout Roman Catholic, Palacios often found her decisions as a pardon's officer extremely difficult. In a 1988 interview with Network magazine, she confided that she found no religious doctrine opposing execution as a legal means of punishment. But she still holds deep reservations about the death penalty in the United States.
"The fact is, if I (were) a legislator or juror, I'd probably vote no. But as a member of the Board of Pardons, I'd have to go with my job," she said in the interview.
Palacios often drew the wrath of the prisoners whose fate was in her hands. She was supposedly one of three people targeted by Hofmann on a coded hit list reportedly confiscated by the FBI and prison authorities. Packages arriving at her home and office were routinely inspected by police bomb squads.
Her teaching career began at the University of Utah where she taught in the College of Law from 1977 until 1983 when she was appointed to the Board of Pardons by then-governor Scott Matheson. From 1987 to 1990, she taught courses for the National Institute of Corrections.
She has also become deeply involved in minority issues, drawing on her experiences growing up in a Hispanic, coal-mining family. Besides delivering the commencement address, Palacios will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the college. The ceremony will be at 10:30 a.m., Friday, June 7, in the Bunnell/Dmitrich Athletic Center.