Media Regurgitates Huckabee and Wayne Dumond

ABC is already moving from the Seattle suspect to Mike Huckabee's pardon of Wayne Dumond with "Huckabee Helped Set Rapist Free Who Later Killed Missouri Woman."

ABC didn't seek out Wayne Dumond's attorney for information about the case. That's okay, I did, in 2007.

Former TalkLeft contributor, Last Night in Little Rock also known as John Wesley Hall (immediate Past President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers), was Wayne Dumond's post-conviction attorney. (The Arkansas Times profiled him here earlier this year. )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)

We covered Huckabee's pardons extensively during the last presidential campaign. I posted a list of notable ones here. More here. [More...]

For Dumond and Huckabee, all of our coverage is here. Also check out four of the court opinions in his case, found below:

There's also this 2001 Village Voice article, The Castration of Wayne Dumond. And Murray Waas's 2002 article on Huckabee and Dumond (republished in 2005.)

The thing about Huckabee's pardons was not that they were bad, but that several made no sense. As we wrote here,

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.

And, on Huckabee's explanations:

Instead of saying, "Yes, I believed Dumond should have been paroled, his sentence was too long, there were doubts about his guilt and I made my thoughts known to the parole board," Huckabee is all over the map, saying he didn't know a lot about the case; he denied clemency and didn't pressure the parole board; it's former Lt. Governor Jim Tucker's fault for reducing Dumond's sentence to 39 1/2 years, making him eligible for parole; Bill Clinton must have known about it; and on and on.

Sometimes the truth will set you free. I think it's too late now for Huckabee. He's caught in a Willie Horton trap, and it's a web of his own making.

Which is really too bad, because while I don't want any Republican as President, someone like Huckabee who is willing to exercise clemency, even if wrong sometimes, is preferable to a candidate like Giuliani who is so 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.

The last thing we need is more Governors hesitant to grant clemency and pardons. By turning the conversation to Wayne Dumond and attacking Huckabee, we're risking the prospects of many other deserving inmates. At a time when states are finally seeing their way to reducing prison time as a way out of their economic problems, when the U.S. continues to imprison more than 2 million people, we need for cooler heads to prevail. Yes, sometimes those granted clemency or parole reoffend. This shouldn't be an argument for restricting it.

We cannot insure that somebody will not re-offend. At the same time, we should not keep others locked up who probably won't just because we're afraid of the political consequences.

The Seattle case is a tragedy. The crime is horrific. But we should never enact policies or laws based on grief or passion arising from a singular event. Cooler heads are needed.

And maybe if Clemmons hadn't been sentenced at 17 to 60 years in prison for a garden-variety burglary, he wouldn't have gone wacko.

From my reading of his Arkansas case decisions last night (available on Lexis.com), the 60 year sentence was determined by a federal court in a habeas action to need reexamination on the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel. It was the only one of five convictions being challenged that the court found fault with. The federal court said his attorney failed to seek the recusal of the judge, who before trial accused Clemons of threatening him.

The case got sent back to Arkansas which upheld the conviction and sentence, holding essentially, the lawyer decided to trust the judge to be fair and believed the judge would give concurrent sentences but it turned out he was wrong and so be it, people make mistakes, the 60 year sentence (30 years per each of two counts) stands. That might be enough to send any 17 year old over the edge.

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    I'm not sure I'd blame the 60 year sentence (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 04:13:48 PM EST
    for his crimes. For example, there are plenty of horrible crimes committed by people who'd never been sentenced for anything before they committed their crime. And plenty who serve long sentences yet emerge as model citizens.

    Shot and killed by officers (none / 0) (#14)
    by Inspector Gadget on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 08:05:23 AM EST

    I think what we say when you impose a (none / 0) (#15)
    by Anne on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 08:59:56 AM EST
    sentence of 60 years, on top of one that was 48 years, for non-violent theft/property crimes, is "we don't see any possibility that you can be rehabilitated, so your a$$ can just rot until you eventually die."

    Say that to a teenager, take away all of his hope, throw in the fact that he may have already been showing signs of mental problems, and what do you end up with?  Nothing good, whether he stays in prison or is eventually released.  Was the overly harsh sentence "the" problem?   Probably not, in and of itself, but who's to say it wasn't a factor?  Someone who's sentenced to what amounts to a lifetime in prison isn't going to get the help he needs to address his mental and behavioral problems, is he?  I mean, what's the point, right?  

    I guess we've decided, as a society, that we can always find money for big, expensive wars that never end, for banksters and bailouts, but we can't ever seem to find the money to develop, staff and run programs both within and outside of the prison system that are designed to keep people from re-offending and teach them how to be productive, responsible and contributing members of society.  Oh, sure, there are some programs.  Small ones that struggle and flounder, and often do not last long enough to sustain the good work they do.

    So, who are we?  A society that sees more benefit in warehousing our problems than in fixing them?  And if states are going to start releasing inmates to reduce the financial burden of continuing to house them for decades, don't they have some responsibility to both the inmate and the community to make sure the inmate can handle it and the community can support them?

    I am a firm believer that those who commit crimes should be held accountable for doing so, but I have never seen the point of punishment that effectively destroys one more life in pursuit of that accountability.  Are there some people whose crimes are so heinous that they should never be free again?  Yes, I think there are.  It's easy enough to conclude, with the benefit of hindsight, that the 95 years Clemmons was sentenced to serve was the right decision, given what he did last week, but at the time, when he was just 18, what did he do that deserved being consigned to an Arkansas prison for what was, realistically, the rest of his life?


    Clemmons crime was not non-violent (none / 0) (#16)
    by nyjets on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 09:23:56 AM EST
    I believe that he was convicted of eight felonies  including aggravated robbery and burglary. He was also convicted I believe after he was pardons. There fore an argument could be made that he did deserve the sentence of 60 years.

    Was the overly harsh sentence (none / 0) (#17)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 12:24:06 PM EST
    Was the overly harsh sentence "the" problem? Probably not, in and of itself, but who's to say it wasn't a factor?
    Well, now we're in la-la land. No offense intended to you, the whole premise of this thread is out there.

    First, in some people's opinion the sentence was "overly harsh." What is the definition of "overly harsh?" Or do you just know it when you see it?

    Second, "a factor?" Sure, everything that ever happened to him in his entire life is "a factor." Where do you draw the line at feeling guilty?

    (Note, when I say "you" that's a generic "you.")


    I could flip this around and ask you, (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Anne on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 01:18:56 PM EST
    as I asked jbindc, how much is enough?  She said 8 years was not enough - in fact he had served 11 years when he was released - but how many years would have been enough?  

    It's easy to look at this whole thing through a lens of hindsight, and say, "see - he should never have been released because look what he did now," but I think the point that others have tried to make is that there is no crystal ball that tells us what people are going to do in the future.

    My point was, and continues to be, that yes, people should be punished when they are convicted of committing crimes, but we, as a society, need to figure out what, if any, value we place on the lives of those we punish.  Do we consider them garbage for the duration of their sentence and then throw them out into the community, where they know nothing about how to be anything other than garbage looking for a trash bin?  Do we make any attempt to change the path so many of these people are on, and prepare them to be different, better people when they are released?  I'm not talking about releasing serial killers, but I'd like to think that someone who repeatedly steals and destroys property as a young teen could be put to better use than living for essentially the rest of his life in prison.

    My further point was that Clemmons came into a fair amount of contact with law enforcement and the judicial system in the last nine years, and at each point, there were opportunities to do something that might have changed his path.  Should those people feel guilty for how this all ended?  That is not for me to say - for all I know everyone went above and beyond to try to help Clemmons and he just refused to be helped; that happens, too.


    how much is enough? (none / 0) (#20)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 02:08:45 PM EST
    No argument. There is no way of knowing what's enough v. too little v. too much.

    Hindsight on this one could be either "too little, if he was still in prison he couldn't have done what he did" or "too much, the time he did made him do what he did."

    Considering the impossibility of ever knowing for sure, I don't see the point in questioning something that has no answer.

    There are people in this world who choose to do bad things. It's not society's fault.

    The opinions of how to deal with these people are as varied as the fish in the sea.

    I wish there was some magic key to solve these problems, but there isn't.

    There are things you don't do simply because you don't do those things - you don't choose to not do them as a reward to society for treating you in the manner that you think you ought to be treated.

    I wish he had made different choices, but he didn't. His choices are not society's failure.


    imo. (none / 0) (#21)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 02:12:09 PM EST
    If one is mentally ill, as Clemmons may (none / 0) (#23)
    by Anne on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 02:37:09 PM EST
    have been, I'm not sure you can be that black-and-white about the choices that are made, but if you subscribe to mental-illness-is-just-an-excuse, as some here seem to, it may be that defined for you.

    mental illness.

    However, as someone with family members who have been clinically diagnosed as mentally ill, I also don't subscribe to mental-illness-is-always-an-excuse, as some here seem to...


    And now (none / 0) (#19)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 01:56:48 PM EST
    since we are looking in hindsight at Huckabee and his pardons, we can also look in hindsight and say the 60 year prison term was right on the money.

    "We?" (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by Anne on Tue Dec 01, 2009 at 02:31:18 PM EST
    You are looking at it in hindsight and have been from the beginning, seemingly not able to understand that we sentence people for what they did, for the crimes they committed, and take into account their prior convictions, but we don't punish them for what we think they might do in the future; we would call that "preventive detention," as much as you don't want to see it that way.

    This hindsight theory of yours has a major flaw: what do you say about the sentencing of people who are later determined to have been wrongly convicted, as in, they were innocent?  If your answer is that someone can only be sentenced on the basis of the situation at the time of conviction, well, there goes that whole hindsight thing.


    Clemmons' lack of treatment for mental illness (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by esmense on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 06:14:55 PM EST
    is what I find worrisome. From what I've read of his history, there were many indications that he was/is very disturbed. Perhaps this violence, and others in his past, could have been prevented with the proper diagnosis and care.

    There were signs (none / 0) (#25)
    by Fabian on Wed Dec 02, 2009 at 01:52:26 PM EST
    from the time of his first arrests.  

    Same old pattern - person with a known history of mental health issues gets a gun and goes shooting.  Either we'll smarten up or we'll just keeping counting the bodies.


    Realistically (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Steve M on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 06:25:21 PM EST
    there is very little difference between a judge deciding that someone should be sentenced to a maximum of X years (as opposed to a larger number) and a parole board deciding that someone should be let out after X years (as opposed to leaving them in for a longer period).  Either way, someone is using their best judgment about when a given person can be returned to society, and sometimes they're going to be wrong.  But the fact that judges and parole boards sometimes get it wrong doesn't mean there should be no such thing as parole or that every sentence should be for life.

    Executive clemency is a different issue because it sort of falls outside the normal processes, but the basic concept is the same.  In the Dumond case, technically what occurred was a parole by the parole board as opposed to clemency by Huckabee, but in reality it doesn't seem like the board was functionally independent of Huckabee in that they all had an incentive to follow his wishes if they wanted to be reappointed to their jobs.  Structurally, you want to keep these decisions as isolated from the political process as you can, but either way humans are going to make mistakes.

    The question is not whether someone screwed up with the benefit of hindsight, because there will always be screwups by that measure, but whether the decision was reasonable in light of what was actually known at the time.  In the case of Wayne Dumond I'm pretty confident Huckabee's decision was nowhere close to reasonable, and we shouldn't refrain from talking about it just because it might discourage governors from granting clemency in cases where it's actually warranted.  I don't really know enough about this latest case to draw any conclusions about Huckabee's role.

    mental health treatment (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by diogenes on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 07:24:37 PM EST
    In March 2001, Clemmons violated parole by allegedly committing aggravated robbery and theft again, and was returned to prison. However, Clemmons was mistakenly not served with the arrest warrants until leaving prison three years later, and the charges were dropped because too much time had passed since the crimes were committed.[3] Clemmons was released from prison again in 2004.[2] He moved to Washington that year, where he was placed under the supervision of the Washington State Department of Corrections and classified as "high risk to reoffend". His supervision was to continue until October 2015. Clemmons lived in Tacoma, where he ran a landscaping and power-washing business out of his house. He is married, but The Seattle Times said the relationship "has been tumultuous". Clemmons repeatedly told his family and police unusual things, including that the world was going to end, that he could fly, that he was Jesus and that President Barack Obama would visit to "confirm that he is Messiah in the flesh".[3]

    In 2009, Clemmons punched a Pierce County sherrif's deputy in the face during a confrontation. Two days later at his home, Clemmons allegedly gathered his wife and two younger relatives around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and ordered them to undress because families need to "be naked for at least five minutes on Sunday". The family reportedly complied because his behavior had been growing increasingly erratic in recent months. Police uncovered evidence in 2009 that Clemmons had raped and molested a 12-year-old relative.[3] Clemmons was arrested and charged in Pierce County with third-degree assault on a police officer and second-degree rape of a child.[2] After a mental evaluation, a psychologist concluded Clemmons was competent to stand trial on the charges. Clemons posted a $15,000 bail bond, which put up $150,000 to secure his release.[3]--from Wikipedia

    If you want parole to mandate that people get mental health treatment including forced medication and to reimprison them if they refuse, then that's fine by me.  Clemmons wasn't exactly going to volunteer to accept treatment.

    [groan] (none / 0) (#1)
    by Fabian on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 02:24:36 PM EST
    Can we use better language than "gone wacko" and "over the edge"?


    I suppose you'd object to (none / 0) (#5)
    by oldpro on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 04:57:11 PM EST
    'went postal!'

    now that dad is retired (none / 0) (#8)
    by Fabian on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 06:01:41 PM EST
    I guess I can't complain.

    Apparently Clemmons has more of a criminal history than what Jeralyn mentioned - wikipedia lists a total of five felony convictions and eight felony charges.  Clemmons appears to have a history of mental illness, although exactly how long he has had mental health problems is unclear.  It is possible that his problems started before his first offense at the age of seventeen.  Chicken or the egg - which is it?


    I said he had five felony convictions (none / 0) (#13)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 10:13:28 PM EST
    "It was the only one of five convictions being challenged..."

    Not understated. Charges are not convictions.


    And on the other hand (none / 0) (#2)
    by jbindc on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 02:32:01 PM EST
    Had he not been granted clemency (no matter if you think it was warranted or not), all of his other victims would be whole, including 4 police officers who would be alive today.

    I read in one of the articles that (none / 0) (#4)
    by Inspector Gadget on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 04:14:13 PM EST
    the robbery was aggravated, and the history of him as a teen was rough. I'm finding it difficult to imagine a 60 year sentence for a simple theft wouldn't have caused outrage in the community.

    The people who have helped him since yesterday's shooting (and the news said there were a lot of them) are finding themselves in custody according to local news.

    Nine children lost a parent yesterday.

    Yes it is (none / 0) (#6)
    by nyjets on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 05:13:30 PM EST
    "Yes, sometimes those granted clemency or parole reoffend. This shouldn't be an argument for restricting it"
    Actually it is. Pardoning criminals, especially the  violent criminals that Mike Huckabee pardoned puts society at risk. especially the fact that Governors and Presidents can pardon anyone for any reason. I dislike parole but at least no one has an absolute power to parole someone.
    Mike Huckabee put rapist and murders back on the streets. As a result, innocent people were hurt and killed.
    Cases like Wayne Dumond and the Seattle suspect demonstrate why the power to pardon must be tightly regulated.

    The U.S. puts way too many people (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by MKS on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 07:43:17 PM EST
    in jail to begin with.  We incarcerate more on a per capita basis than most other developed countries.....

    The cost to society for the "feel-good" many get when they read of people being put in jail is very, very high......

    A very good argument can be made that prison creates more violent offenders than it keeps off the streets.....

    If we took all the money that we devote to investigating, arresting, trying and incarcerating drug offenders into education and treatment, we could make a real difference in addiction rates.


    Not only do I disagree (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 05:40:36 PM EST
    But your comment is in direct opposition to the principles of this site, and under the comment rules, you are limited to four such comments a day.