As governor of Arkansas in 2000, Mike Huckabee granted clemency to a prisoner, one of 1,033 during his ten years in office.
Lacking a crystal ball, Huckabee commuted a 95-year sentence in the case of Maurice Clemmons, the man suspected of the brutal execution style slaying of four police officers yesterday morning at a Washington state coffee shop. (Huckabee opted for clemency because Clemmons was only 17 at the time of his crimes.) And it isn’t the first time Huckabee has been at the center of such a controversy- he also granted clemency to a convicted rapist who later raped and murdered another woman.
While the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the officers is tragic, Huckabee hardly tried to help the young offender (who had just paid bail on a child rape case earlier this month) in hopes he would one day commit a string of murders that would come back to haunt the former Arkansas governor. Criminals like Clemmons will undoubtedly be given the odd opportunity to slide through cracks, and blaming Huckabee for trying to give someone a second chance is misguided and pointless. Indeed, the facts of the case appeared much different at the time of the commutation, when a teenager faced nearly a century in prison for some non-violent crimes- in contrast to the man who walked free on bail after allegedly committing a violent act against a child.
However, the DuMond case (the rapist who murdered a woman after Huckabee’s pardon) didn’t cause lasting damage to Huckabee, according to a poll earlier this month:
A USA Today/Gallup poll released earlier this month found that 71 percent of Republicans would “seriously consider” voting for Huckabee in 2012. By contrast, 65 percent said they would seriously consider voting for Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, and 60 percent said they would seriously consider voting for Newt Gingrich.
It should also be noted that Huckabee didn’t pardon Clemmons- his release required parole board approval. So while Huckabee was instrumental in securing freedom for Clemmons, it wasn’t a one-man decision. And during the intervening years, the system has seen Clemmons slip through their grasp again, with administrative screw ups leaving the increasingly anti-social man free to commit further crimes.
Personally, I think everyone should get off Mike Huckabee’s balls about this one. Disagree with his policies or political history, but there are probably very few people who feel as culpable or saddened by this case right now as Mike Huckabee. The fact also remains that this situation could happen to anyone in office who commutes a sentence or pardons a prisoner- Huckabee was just unlucky here.
Huckabee released a statement on his blog about the tragedy and the case of Maurice Clemmons, full text below:
The senseless and savage execution of police officers in Washington State has saddened the nation, and early reports indicate that a person of interest is a repeat offender who once lived in Arkansas and was wanted on outstanding warrants here and in Washington State. The murder of any individual is a profound tragedy, but the murder of a police officer is the worst of all murders in that it is an assault on every citizen and the laws we live within.
Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State. He was recommended for and received a commutation of his original sentence from 1990, this commutation made him parole eligible and he was then paroled by the parole board once they determined he met the conditions at that time. He was arrested later for parole violation and taken back to prison to serve his full term, but prosecutors dropped the charges that would have held him. It appears that he has continued to have a string of criminal and psychotic behavior but was not kept incarcerated by either 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. Our thoughts and prayers are and should be with the families of those honorable, brave, and heroic police officers.