Huckabee Explains Maurice Clemmons Clemency Decision

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has a new op-ed in the Washington Post explaining his grant of clemency to Maurice Clemmons, suspected of killing four police officers in Seattle.

He explains why he granted clemency to Clemmons, noting that no one objected and if the same information was available to him today, he'd make the same decision. Any fault, he says, lies with prosecutors' decisions in later years.[More...]

Maurice Clemmons was 16 years old when he committed the crimes of burglary and robbery. He was sentenced to a total of 108 years in prison, dramatically outside the norm for sentencing for the crimes he committed and the age at which he committed them.

In 2000, the PPTB unanimously recommended that his sentence be commuted after he had already served 11 years in prison. As per the recommendation, I commuted his sentence to the term of 47 years (still a long sentence in comparison to others for the type of crime he had committed), making him parole eligible. It did not parole him, as governors do not have that power in Arkansas. He would have to separately apply for parole and meet the criteria for it.

Three months after the commutation, Clemmons met the criteria for parole and was paroled to supervision in late 2000. When he violated the terms of his parole, he was returned to prison and should have remained behind bars. For reasons only the prosecutor can explain, he ended up dropping the charges, allowing Clemmons to leave prison and return to supervised parole.

So, Huckabee says, the prosecutor blew it.

I can't explain why he wasn't prosecuted properly for the parole violations, or why he was allowed to make bail in Washington and was not incarcerated earlier for crimes committed there. I take responsibility for my actions, but not for the actions of others, nor for the misinformed words of commentators.

I agree with Huckabee that his clemency grant was appropriate. A 108 year sentence for a juvenile on burglary charges that involved no fatalities is unfairly draconian. Huckabee reduced the sentence to 47 years. He didn't order him paroled, but his action made him eligible for parole earlier, and the parole board unanimously decided to release him, after serving 11 years.

The last thing we need is more Governors hesitant to grant clemency and pardons. We cannot insure that somebody will not re-offend. At the same time, we should not keep others locked up who likely will not because we're afraid of the political consequences.

Clemmons was arrested for violating his parole and returned to jail. That Clemmons didn't remain in prison finishing his 47 year sentence after violating his parole had nothing to do with Huckabee but with decisions by prosecutors and courts in later years. Those later decisions may warrant an inquiry into what went wrong in Clemmons' case. But overall, the system is not broken and the checks and balances are there: Prison, parole, re-offend, re-imprisonment.

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.

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    Hard cases make bad law (none / 0) (#1)
    by diogenes on Mon Dec 07, 2009 at 06:42:35 PM EST
    Or so the old adage goes...

    I agree with you which is why its a shame (none / 0) (#2)
    by fuzzyone on Mon Dec 07, 2009 at 11:17:12 PM EST
    that supposedly progressive blogs have crap like this

    I have to applaud (none / 0) (#3)
    by AlkalineDave on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 08:25:19 AM EST
    you Jeralyn.  HuffPo, dailykos, and others who should be more mature on this issue just see an opportunity to lampoon.  Thanks for keeping it in perspective.

    Typical... (none / 0) (#4)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 10:58:39 AM EST
    ...it's always someone else's fault.  Another angle to consider (from the Associated Baptist Press even)...

    The Arkansas Leader, a Little Rock-area newspaper that began writing about Huckabee's commutations in 2004, said the governor appeared to have a penchant for releasing inmates he happened to meet or who had connections to his family as well as for those vouched for by a fellow minister claiming the prisoner had accepted Christ. As Huckabee's reputation for granting clemency spread, the number of convicts applying increased.

    "We never quarreled with his compassion but with his judgment," the newspaper opined in a Dec. 1 editorial. "If a convict could get the governor's ear and convince him that he had found Jesus and turned his life around or he could get a preacher to intercede with the governor, he was apt to go free."

    Faith based pardons--yet another reason to keep religion out of government.

    wrong angle (none / 0) (#5)
    by diogenes on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 11:12:15 AM EST
    Are you saying that Clemmons' commutation should not have happened based on your "other angle"?

    We against the death penalty... (none / 0) (#6)
    by kdog on Tue Dec 08, 2009 at 05:41:46 PM EST
    coulda used Huck today in Ohio to halt an execution of a man professing his love for Jesus as the state stuck a needle in his arm.

    I know it ain't cool if Huck was favoring the born-agains and stiffing the rest of his prisoners in similar circumstances...but I'll still take pardons and commutations and mercy where I can get it brother.