In Defense Of Mike Huckabee: The Maurice Clemmons Clemency

Mike Huckabee apparently should have erred more on the side of caution in dispensing pardons when he was governor of Arkansas. He pardoned rapist Wayne DuMond, who then later raped another woman. Now, it looks like he’s done it again — well, sort of. Maurice Clemmons, the lunatic who murdered four policemen, was given clemency nine years ago by Huckabee:

Clemmons was arrested at age 17 and sentenced to 95 years in prison in 1989 for a host of charges, including robberies, burglaries, thefts and bringing a gun to school. But he did not serve 95 years, he only served 11. In the year 2000, then Governor Mike Huckabee commuted Clemmons sentence, and he was paroled. Huckabee cited Clemmons’ young age — 17 at the time of his sentencing — when he announced his decision to commute the sentence, according to newspaper articles.

This was the beginning of an unfortunate series of events that allowed Clemmons to remain a free man despite evidence that he was failing to function in the real world. In Arkansas, 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.

A year after his release, Clemmons was arrested for aggravated robbery and theft. He was taken back to prison for parole violation. But he apparently was not served with the arrest warrants for the robbery and theft charges until he left prison three years later, in 2004. His attorney argued the charges should be dismissed because too much time had passed by then. Prosecutors dropped the charges.

In recent months, Clemmons, relocated to Washington State, was displaying increasingly erratic behavior. To this reader, he appears to have been mentally ill. He claimed to be Jesus, to have the ability to fly, and in one instance, demanded that relatives strip naked because everybody should be naked at least once every Sunday. Nothing got him a ticket to jail or to a mental health facility.

Yesterday, the shooting happened. As details have emerged, the last officer to die apparently was engaged in a desperate wrestling match with Clemmons at the exit of the restaurant. Clemmons may have been hit by one bullet of return fire from the four officers. He is at this time in his home, surrounded by police forces. The inevitable final act is pending.

If you’re wondering how Huckabee picked Clemmons out of a hat in order to commute his sentence, you’re not going to learn much from the brief statement he put out:

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.

Many conservatives have been hammering Huckabee over this incident, but I have to disagree. While it’s tempting to point the finger of blame at Mike Huckabee here, it’s not as if he pardoned Clemmons and a week later, the guy killed four police officers.

Huckabee commuted his sentence, which appears to have been for non-violent offenses, 9 years ago, and a parole board then reviewed his case, and decided to allow Clemmons to walk out of prison. To come back after all of that time and after many other brushes with the law and a history of mental illness — and blame Mike Huckabee — well, it’s not a fair reading of events.

This is a terrible tragedy for those cops and their families and that shouldn’t be minimized. But sometimes, despite the best intentions of everyone involved, the system breaks down, things fall through the cracks, and bad things do happen to good people who don’t deserve it. Trying to go back, with the benefit of hindsight and pick a particular person to blame for the whole affair — it just doesn’t always make that much sense.

Mike Huckabee, along with the parole board, prosecutors, attorneys, people who overlooked Clemmons bizarre behavior, etc., etc., all were links in a chain that eventually led to the death of four police officers and they, along with the families of those officers, are tragically going to have to live with the consequences.

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