Huckabee's Other Pardons

Last week I predicted at the end of this post that Wayne Dumond would be only one of former Governor Mike Huckabee's pardon decisions to come back and bite him. The AP today reports on some of the others:

Huckabee granted 1,033 pardons and commutations in his 10 1/2 years as governor of Arkansas. The acts of clemency benefited the stepson of a staff member, murderers who worked at the governor's mansion, a rock star and inmates who received good words from their pastors.

As one Arkansas prosecutor put it, "It seems to be true at least anecdotally that if a minister is involved, (Huckabee) seems likely to grant clemency." Others say the key was either having "direct contact" with him or a strong lobbying effort by those close to the inmate.

The rock star, of course, was Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. No big deal there. As to the others: [More....]

  • James Maxwell, who killed a pastor of the Church of God in Arkansas. Maxwell worked at the Governor's Mansion when Huckabee announced his intent to reduce his prison sentence.
  • Samuel W. Taylor, convicted on a drug charge. A prosecutor said the man had told him Taylor's sister had gone to school with Huckabee. Huckabee said the sister didn't influence the decision. Taylor subsequently was arrested on another drug charge.
  • Donald W. Clark, convicted of theft. Huckabee's pastor recommended leniency for Clark, whose stepmother worked on Huckabee's gubernatorial staff.
  • Robert A. Arnold Jr., who was convicted of killing his father-in-law. Arnold's father, a former mayor of Hope, Huckabee's hometown, said he was a casual friend of the governor.
  • Denver Witham, convicted of beating a man to death with a lead pipe at bar, had his sentence commuted by Huckabee. The action drew the ire of prosecutors who speculated that Huckabee's act of clemency was related to Witham, who was lead singer in a prison band, being a fellow musician.

Some others:

Last week, Huckabee issued proclamations granting clemency for ... John H. Claiborne, who is serving 375 years in prison for a 1994 kidnapping and armed robbery conviction in Pulaski County. ....Also last week, the governor announced he planned commute Dennis Lewis' sentence of life in prison without parole to time served contingent upon the successful completion of a pre-release program. Lewis was convicted of capital murder in Washington County Circuit Court in 1975, for shooting a Fayetteville pawnshop owner. Earlier this month, Huckabee issued notice of intent to grant clemency to Glen Martin Green of Jacksonville, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1975 after pleading guilty to first-degree murder.

Huckabee granted a lot of deserved pardons while in office, particularly for drug offenders serving excessive sentences. A Governor's use of clemency and pardon power is a good thing. The problem with Huckabee's exercise of the power is that several of his decisions make no sense, he refused to explain his decisions, and he injected his religion into it. In 2004,

Gov. Mike Huckabee said Wednesday that his religious background and belief in redemption played a key role in the high number of state prisoners he has pardoned or turned loose early. "I would not deny that my sense of the reality of redemption is a factor."

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    In my experience, ministers are (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by oculus on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 12:10:09 PM EST
    prone to take at face value the conversion of the convicted criminal to christianity and expect excellent future behavious due to the conversion.  For example, I heard a minister advocate for a converted, convicted, serial murderer, who stalked women whose husbands were in the naval hospital during the Vietnam war, got there addresses, and surprised the women at home. A truly evil person.

    Violation of civil rights (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by voiceinthedesert on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 09:14:24 PM EST
    To what extent would the granting of pardons to violent criminals based on a prejudice that they had been "born again" simultaneously constitute an illegal prejudice against those that hadn't "accepted Jesus?"

    How many times did he look at some poor sinner that was beyond feeling the light and decide that he just wasn't worthy of forgiveness?

    How over the line is it to pardon dangerous threats to our life and wel being based on a religious test? And do you think he would have been equally disposed to accept the genuine conversion of a poor sinner if he had accepted the call of the Mormons, or the Muslims, or the Sikhs?

    Did Mike cross the line when he responded only to evengelical preachers vouching for the applicant?

    I believe Mike Huckabee to be one of the most dangerous men in America. He believes that Christians after his own description should be treated differently, and that is just the beginning.

    I share your concerns. (none / 0) (#8)
    by Tim51 on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 10:44:49 PM EST
    Reminds me of A Clockwork Orange (a viscious young thug/rapist/murderer converted to religion upon entering prison and started sucking up to the prison chaplain). Would Huckabee have pardoned that character?

    what's wrong with religion (none / 0) (#1)
    by txpublicdefender on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 10:34:19 AM EST
    I don't understand the hostility towards his "injecting" religion into his decisions.  It is not uncommon for someone's religion to infuse their sense of morality.  If someone is a Christian, they are supposed to believe in redemption.  The fact that he acknowledged that this belief played a role in his clemency decisions makes sense.  Why does this bother you?  History is filled with political decisionmakers pursuing policies that sprung from their religious convictions, such as abolition and civil rights.  I'm not saying that only religious people fought for these things or that these changes could never have happened without religion.  But to expect that one's religion, which, for many people is, at least in part, a philosophy for how to live one's life, will have no bearing on someone's political decisions is crazy.

    religious favoritism (none / 0) (#7)
    by Tim51 on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 10:34:39 PM EST
    As an atheist, I would be concerned that there might be religious favoritism. If the word of a pastor is persuasive, or a convict's converting to a religion influences the decision, that doesn't seem fair to me.

    i agree with that (none / 0) (#9)
    by txpublicdefender on Tue Dec 11, 2007 at 10:25:15 AM EST
    I agree that I would have a problem with a tendency to favor a pardon for someone who claims to have changed because of a Christian conversion as opposed to someone who has changed for non-religious reasons.  And that type of favoritism may be something Huckabee was guilty of.  But I don't have a problem with someone's religious believe in redemption and the ability for someone to be forgiven for his worst acts and to change his life influencing his decision to grant pardons at all, even to those who many others would just assume lock up forever.  

    Anybody who would pardon... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 11:51:19 AM EST
    the Human Riff can't be all bad.

    A pardon (none / 0) (#4)
    by Deconstructionist on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 03:13:58 PM EST
     is "an act of grace." In recognition of many factors-- justice is not perfect, people do change, etc., it has long been accepted that some "extra-judicial" means of revisting onvictions and/or sentences is necessary and proper.

     On the other hand, the power to pardon is susceptible to being and has been abused. Sometimes the abuse is straightforward corruption-- trading pardons for money or favors-- sometimes personal relationships have played a suspicious role, sometimes the judgment required has simply been poorly applied.

        There is (unless you are an anti-religious zealot who is not content to reject religion personally but so self-reverential as to believe your views are the only acceptable ones)  nothing at all wrong with a person possessing the pardoning power to be influenced in his decision by his personal religious beliefs. That does not mean, however, that if a person's religious beliefs skews his judgment and leads him to make "unreasonable" decisions he should not be held accountable.


    Pardons are good (none / 0) (#5)
    by tsawyer on Mon Dec 10, 2007 at 04:15:59 PM EST
    I hate to see Huckabee getting flayed for granting pardons and clemencies.  Most governors are too chicken to exercise that power.  Most pardons are held up till the last week of office, and then grudgingly given.
    It's no accident that our prisons are bursting at the seams.  There are judges and prosecutors working night and day to fill them up.
    D's and R's consistantly agree on increasing penalties and making new things criminal. Even the prisons get in the act, denying access to law libraries to stifle appeals.
     The only force in society that works in the opposite direction at all is the pardon and clemency process.   For it to work, the politician has to be able to handle the trash talk from the other side when it doesn't work out. No one blames the judge if the bad guy does a crime after serving his entire term but let someone out after "only" 12 years of a 30 year sentence and you're betting your career on some felon's promises.
    If you have criticicism of Huck, pick out the corrupt grants, but also praise the ones that were deserved.