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December 1, 2009

Huckabee's Clemency under Scrutiny after Police Killings

Former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee faces criticism for granting clemency nine years ago to Maurice Clemmons, who fatally shot four police officers and was killed this morning in Seattle.

In a statement, Huckabee blamed “failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State. ... This is a horrible and tragic event and if found and convicted the offender should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

David Waters at the Washington Post and Dick Polman at the Philadelphia Inquirer suggest that Huckabee's previous role as a Southern Baptist pastor could have factored into his decision.

Joe Carter, the former research director of his presidential campaign, wrote for First Things that "His naivete about how his actions would be judged was compounded by his own belief in the nobleness of his motives."

"Judging from the records, the governor also seemed to put a lot of weight on conversion stories—a common trait among evangelicals, who believe the gospel is sufficient for restoration and redemption of character," Carter wrote. "The opinion of clergy appears to have carried a great deal of weight in the decision-making process."

During the 2008 election, critics pointed to Wayne DuMond, a convicted rapist who murdered and raped again after being freed in 1999. Carter continues:

Ironically, what makes Huckabee such an appealing presidential candidate -- his empathy for all people and genuine belief in the individual -- is also the trait that will prevent him from ever reaching the White House. His experiences and intuitions that served him well as a minister of the gospel were not always applicable in of governor of a state. The unfortunate reality is that for politicians, unlike pastors, there are limits to compassion.

In Clemmon's appeal for clemency, he wrote:

Since that hearing the angel of death has visited and taken away my dear sweet mother, and this more than anything has effected change for the good in my heart. Because now I have to live with all that I put her through I wasn't able to be with her and make her proud of me before she passed away. I have never done anything good for God, but I’ve prayed for him to grant me in his compassion the grace to make a start ... Now, I’m humbly appealing to you for a brand new start.

Maurice Clemmons' Parole And Clemency Docs, via Seattle Times

Comments

"Since that hearing the angel of death has visited and taken away my dear sweet mother, and this more than anything has effected change for the good in my heart. Because now I have to live with all that I put her through I wasn't able to be with her and make her proud of me before she passed away."

The children of those slain police officers will not have the physical presence of their fathers in the future as a source of encouragement either.

What Huckabee didn't seem to understand is that Mr. Clemmons had every opportunity to change his life and remain in prison. Just as slaves in the NT who became Christians often remained slaves; or as Joseph remained faithful to God in spite of 13 years as a slave/prisoner.

I am not opposed to clemency. But, violent criminals? This event is a sure testimony of the dangers of MH's actions.

Year, this really turned around and bit Huckabee on the behind. I can understand why this will end his Presidential aspirations, but this is not his fault. He did not kill those officers, Clemmons did.

The only way that future "Huckabees" can be spared of the potential for another homicide being committed, under similar circumstances, is for the legislation permitting it to be repealed...and that's not going to happen. It's not about Huckabee!

In a statement, Huckabee blamed “failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State. ... This is a horrible and tragic event and if found and convicted the offender should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

That's the part that bothered me! The justice system did work until he overrode it! At least, he could have 'fessed up and said he made a mistake instead of blaming it on somebody elsel

Who gives the governors the authority to release or parden anyone. There's your responsibility for the release. All releases of prisoners should be left up to parole boards or time served. The murderer is the person who did the killing and those who were told by him he was going to do the killing and didn't report this to some authority. He planned, told people, and did the act. He's guilty. He had nine years of not doing anything, I would like to know why after nine years he decided to do this and why specifically policemen. Sounds like vengeance to me and "Vengeance is mine, said the Lord." As for Huckabee, he had the authority to release anyone and he picked this guy, but, nine years later, I'm not going to blame him. Too much time went by for this murderer to turn his life around and he obviously didn't. Threw away his opportunity.

First, at the time that Huckabee commuted his sentence (making him eligible for parole), he's served 11 years of a 60 year sentence for BURGLARY. It was the state that later paroled him and he was subseqently arrested breaking that parole, but a paperwork snafu caused the parole revocation to not happen, freeing him to go to Washington where he was again incarcerated and let out on bond.

In my opinion, all acts by any Govenor or President should be automatically revoked at the next run-in with the law. But, saddly that isn't the case and this man played the system until he ended up killing those poor officers and causing those families to be without their loved ones on this Christmas.

Will this end Huckabee's political career? Likely. Do I find fault with his actions at the time, given what he knew at the time... not really. A 16yo boy was sentenced to 60 years for burglary.

As far as Huckabee's decision years ago as Governor, hindnsight is always 20/20. As a Christian, his heart was probanily in the right place; but none of us are perfect: only Jesus. Let's be careful where we cast our stones. One of them may back fire on us.

Merry Christmas!

Clemmons was not, YET, a murderer, at the time that Gov. Huckabee commuted his sentence from 108 years to 47.5 years. Huckabee was not looking at a murderer or a child rapist. Those actions came almost a decade later. Huckabee was looking at a person who had just served 11 years hard time for crimes that did not rise to the level of murder or child rape. Some of the comments that people are making suggest otherwise. Also, it was just a commutation; not a pardon or a parole. Clemmons was never pardoned by anyone and he was only paroled by the PTPB (Parole Board).

While it is tragic these officers were killed, I also find it interesting hardly no one seems to be talking about the widespread inequality in the justice system along racial lines. Incidents like these tend to worsen race relations and lead to further shootings between Blacks citizens and White cops. All anyone wants to talk about is whether or not a governor should have commuted a man given 90 years for violent robbery based on what he did a decade later, clearly in an unstable emotional state. We're not even talking much about mental illness. If we want to blame who or what is really responsible, and are looking at one governor's commutation, we're looking at far too narrow a picture and lying to ourselves about what's really going on.

Sure, Clemmons' sentence was commuted and a decade later he (probably) killed several people, but look at the rest of the 1000+ people Huckabee pardoned: besides Wayne Dumond and Clemmons, how many have killed? What is their recidivism rate, compared with the non-pardoned? Did Clemmons' original 90 year sentence fit his crime, or might racial aspects of the justice system have had an effect on that sentencing? How does racial profiling affect the justice system? Why are Blacks given more prison time for the same crimes? Why are so many Black males in the prison system? Why are so many Blacks still impoverished? Did Clemmons' exposure to a flawed prison system encourage his later series of crimes? Shouldn't Arkansas and Washington state authorities have communicated better to realize this man had a huge rap sheet just before he (probably) gunned down four cops? Why would a man want to gun down cops, if he hadn't experienced terrible treatment from cops, and was emotionally unstable, as the evidence suggests? The questions we're (not) asking reveal more about our assumptions than the answers.

As a Canadian I have an outsider's view but I cannot help but suspect that Brendan is on to something. I also question the, (I would say), excessively long sentences given in the USA. The War On Drugs is a disaster that has caused greater misery and done nothing to curtail the spread of drug use in America; bias against racial and economics groups appears to be foundational within the "justice" system, long sentences with no hope of eventual freedom, (even with restriction), do not inspire offenders to change.As a neighbour I am very concerned: both for the welfare of your country but also for the influence on mine. America is no longer viewed as a leader among nations.