Huckabee and Wayne Dumond: Interview With Dumond's Attorney
Former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is taking a lot of heat these days over his clemency decisions while Governor -- particularly that of Wayne Dumond. Huckabee's latest statement, released today, is here.
This is a complicated tale. For the facts of the Dumond - Ashley Stevens rape case, and why Huckabee might have had doubts about Dumond's guilt, based on problems with the scientific evidence and Stevens' identification of Dumond, there's no better source than the appellate court opinions on the case. Here are four of them:
TalkLeft contributor Last Night in Little Rock also known as John Wesley Hall, was Wayne Dumond's post-conviction attorney. In addition to seeking post-conviction relief in the state courts, John represented Dumond in his federal habeas actions, the pre-Huckabee clemency request and in the civil case against Sheriff Coolidge Conlee, who displayed Dumond's castrated testicles on a jar on his desk. John obtained a $150,000.00 verdict for Dumond for the tort of outrage. The Sheriff later died in prison while serving his own 20 year sentence for extortion, gambling and other crimes. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9/26/96, available on Lexis.com)
An interview with John about Dumond's sentence commutation and clemency, the roles of former Lt. Gov. Tucker, Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee, Dumond's castration and his thoughts on Dumond's original rape conviction, from evidentiary doubts to the sentence disparity, follows:
On then Lt. Gov. Jim "Guy" Tucker's commutation and clemency:
After he exhausted his judicial remedies, Dumond asked Clinton for clemency. The Parole Board voted 5-2 for a reduction to time served. Clinton told the Parole Board to reconsider. They did, recommending a sentence reduction to 39-1/2 years. When Clinton was on the road and out of state in 1992 campaigning for president, Lt. Gov. Jim Guy Tucker read the clemency file and he signed off on the sentence reduction. But, Dumond was not eligible for immediate release. The Parole Board still had to approve release.
I remember vividly my meeting with Tucker over the Dumond case. He was running the state out of his Lt. Gov. office while Clinton was campaigning, and he wanted to meet with me. Tucker is an intelligent man, a former District Attorney and and Attorney General here , former U.S. Congressman (known not to be a "friend of Bill"), and now wealthy from investments, a man who got a liver transplant because of a rare disease.
Tucker had read the entire file, and he asked pointed questions, and he knew little details from both the trial transcript and the clemency file that only somebody who had personally read it would know. Tucker was getting ready to go off to some function, and he apologized as he changed his pants after the meeting dragged on longer than he expected.
Tucker's view was based on the severity of the sentence because I showed that Dumond was the only person charged in St. Francis County with rape or murder who was sentenced to more than 10 years in the five years before and after the Stevens rape. The defense at trial wanted to put the castration in as mitigation of punishment, and the trial judge wouldn't allow it. Tucker felt that the sentence was excessive and reduced it to 39-1/2 years. How he came up with that, I don't know, but it did not mean immediate release. He still had to go before the Parole Board which denied release.
From all I could see, Clinton had no hand in Dumond’s clemency, other than to reject a recommendation to time served.
Tucker had the guts to reduce the sentence, but then political pressure built on the parole board to not release Dumond on parole and make him flatten his time, despite an excellent institutional record.
On Huckabee's role:
Then Huckabee becomes Governor, and the machinations to get Dumond paroled happen there. Parole board members say they were privately lobbied for early release while Huckabee was publicly denying early release himself.
There was talk that Huckabee supposedly struck a deal with the Parole Board or some of its members in exchange for their reappointment to the board in order to get Dumond paroled. Huckabee denied it repeatedly but many don't believe it. The best source on that is editor Max Brantley of the Arkansas Times. They covered it extensively.
Some would say that Huckabee was being a hypocrite by saying one thing publicly and working the parole board behind the scenes for deniability. [Max Brantley for one.]
It is well known that Dumond's late wife "Dusty" (who died before he was released) met with Huckabee, supposedly in his capitol office, when Huckabee was Lt. Gov. That is where the prayer stories came from. I could tell that Dusty had a screw loose, but Huckabee may not have seen it because undoubtedly she would have put on a different face for him.
Maybe Dusty thought that the Lt. Gov. was the real seat of power in all this since Tucker did it as de facto "Acting Governor" in the Governor's absence under an archaic provision in the 1874 Arkansas Constitution that the Lt. Gov., or the next in line, becomes acting governor if the Governor is outside the state. And, Clinton was gone 7/8ths of the time in 1992.
Dumond was an aberration. Huckabee did good things with his clemency power, and he denied a hell of a lot more than he granted. Moreover, there will always be some as*h*le that violates the governor's trust and re-offends after clemency. The same thing happens with judges (see the Mass. judge story), parole, probation, Willie Horton. We cannot insure that somebody will not re-offend. At the same time, we cannot keep the others who probably won't locked up just because we're afraid of the political consequences (e.g., former California Governor Gray Davis, Gov. Bush on the death penalty).
I always expected after Dumond was rearrested in MO that he would be "Willie Hortonized" for Dumond. It has come to pass.
On Dumond's castration. It is virtually impossible that it was self-inflicted.
As for the self-castration, this story was floated many times, and it even came up during the civil trial I handled for Dumond over the "tort of outrage" claim for the Sheriff having Dumond's testicles in a jar on his desk, in formaldehyde provided by Mr. Stevens, Ashley Steven's father.
The judge excluded the photographs of all the blood on the floor in Dumond's house as being more prejudicial than relevant under Fed. Rule of Evidence 403. Then, after the Sheriff said that Dumond castrated himself, the judge reversed himself and the photos came in.
It was estimated by one witness that Dumond lost nearly half his blood. He was found by his sons when they came home from school. He had been hog-tied (can anyone explain how he would castrate and then hog-tie himself?) The Sheriff showed up and scooped up the testicles, later telling an FBI agent aghast at the jar on the desk "This is what happens when you rape the wrong person in this country." The FBI agent testified at the civil trial.
Ashley Stevens' father was subpoenaed for trial, and he skipped to Memphis for the day. The Judge offered to have the U.S. Marshal retrieve him. We agreed to read his deposition into evidence, which was just as good, and I was able to argue his absence was conscious.
On the blood and semen evidence (read the court opinions above for the technical details):
I thought the pre-DNA genetic testing excluded Dumond because of missing genetic markers. It was all consumed in the testing. Genetic markers from two separate donors were found in the jeans Ashley Stevens claimed she wore that day.
According to the state at trial, non-motile sperm was found in the sample, proving he had a vasectomy. That was BS, too. The State proved Dumond had a vasectomy years earlier, which it argued means nonmotile sperm, but it really means no sperm. Non-motile sperm is impossible because a vasectomy cuts off sperm entering the semen.
On the eyewitness identification and Ashley Steven's quote from Murray Waas' article,
'This is how close I was to Wayne Dumond,'" Stevens says she told Huckabee at the time. "'I will never forget his face. And now I don't want you ever to forget my face.'"John responds:
Before identifying Dumond, she identified three other men as the rapist. After those identifications, Dumond was seen driving on the street and that is how she identified him. I don’t remember now, but either the first or second person she identified had an alibi. The others she recanted on.
[Note: the court opinions linked above recount the identification procedures and results differently.]
On whether Dumond raped Ashley Stevens:
My view is that he probably did not do the rape of Ashley Stevens, but he became institutionalized by prison, and he become incorrigibly angry and then committed the murders in Missouri.
On clemency power in Arkansas:
We are one of the last jury sentencing states, and judges have absolute discretion to reject a jury recommendation for concurrent time or probation. There is built-in arbitrariness in drug cases from county to county. For example, there is a federal case named Henderson v. Norris where a jury sentenced a defendant to life in prison for sale of a few rocks of crack cocaine. The 8th Circuit held it was cruel and unusual punishment because under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, he would have received 12 months. So, because of the arbitrariness of jury sentencing, the governor's clemency power is very important.
On Huckabee and clemencies:
Huckabee had a strange history of clemencies. Some made no sense at all or appeared wired by people's connections, including violent crimes, even when the parole board disagreed. One local paper covered all this.
But, Huckabee wisely granted hundreds of clemencies in drug cases with excessive sentences, all after the parole board approved. All of them are in the Secretary of State's office as a public record, and somebody surely has done an analysis of them. I did of the drug cases when arguing for clemency once before to see the pattern. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has had stories on his clemencies.
Huckabee, being a former Southwest Arkansas preacher, believes in redemption and second chances for those whom he believes have earned it. He showed that in granting clemencies. But in the waning days of his administration which ended January 15th, 2007, he denied hundreds. My office received five in one day in late December, four of which had been approved by the Parole Board.
Note: Disclaimer by John Wesley Hall:
Everything I've discussed is already public and I have been careful not to violate confidentiality. It came to pass that Dumond accused me of screwing up his release, even suing me in malpractice for it, using a lawyer from another part of the state, and that provided a limited release from confidentiality for "lawyer self-defense" in defending the case, which Dumond later dropped after he fired that lawyer, too.[News articles on that lawsuit and the other lawyer are here and here.
First, a big thanks to John for taking the time to do this interview with me last night and today.
My view: Huckabee should be praised, not castigated, for his willingness to consider clemency and parole for those convicted of murder or other violent crimes. One of my strongest objections to former California Governor Gray Davis was his refusal to do so. (See also the San Francisco Chronicle editorial, Wasted Money, Wasted Lives.)
Huckabee also deserves praise for granting clemency to drug offenders with excessive sentences. Where Huckabee falls short is in bringing his religion into his clemency decisions, for refusing to explain his reasons for his decisions and for trying to blame Bill Clinton for Dumond's release, as he did in this recent Byron York interview:
Today, [Huckabee] knows he was terribly wrong, but he still defends his actions. “My only official action was to deny his clemency,” Huckabee told me in Iowa. As we talked, Huckabee spread the blame around, not only to Tucker, who originally commuted Dumond’s sentence, but to Bill Clinton as well. “Tucker could not have done that without Clinton’s full knowledge and approval,” Huckabee said.
There will be other clemency decisions by Huckabee that are questioned during the course of this campaign. As I wrote in my earlier post, I believe a presidential candidate willing to exercise clemency, even if wrong sometimes, is far preferable to a candidate like Rudy Giuliani who is so rigid on criminal justice issues -- and intent on furthering his law and order image -- that he is only capable of showing compassion for former offenders who happen to be his cronies and business associates.
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