In 2001, then Governor Mike Huckabee commutes the sentence of Maurice Clemmons from sixty plus years to time served, setting Clemmons free; in November 2009, Clemmons is wanted in connection with the killing of four police officers.
That’s doesn’t mean I agree with the reasoning.
One, the Huckster ought never have been a candidate for president. Primarily because he’s a theocrat. But also because he’s the worst of the Democrats and Republicans combined into one horrific candidate; he wants to police your bedroom AND your refrigerator. Really, I could fill a book with reasons NOT to vote Huckabee and never mention Maurice Clemmons. If he’s your sole reason for ditching Huck, well, you haven’t been paying attention.
Two, those two facts – Huckabee set a man free and the man later killed four cops – do not by themselves mean the commutation was a bad idea. No one can know how the future will unfold. Obviously, here, the future turned into a nightmare. When assigning blame, though, the issue is whether the information available at the time of the commutation should have led Huckabee to suspect problems in the future. If Clemmons was a certified psycho even in 2001, then sure, slam Huckabee. Or if Huck didn’t have much information and acted out of ignorance, then slam him. But don’t fault him if this looked like an ideal commutation case in 2001. If that’s the case, he made the best decision those of us without omniscience can make.
So what were the facts in 2001? The news reports tell us that prosecutors opposed the commutation. BFD. When’s the last time a prosecutor supported the use of clemency? Geez, prosecutors often oppose releasing people from jail even when DNA has proven innocence. In short, that prosecutors opposed Clemmons’ release means nothing.
Here’s the only other facts I know:
In 1990, Clemmons, then 18, was sentenced in Arkansas to 60 years in prison for burglary and theft of property, according to a news account in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Newspaper stories describe a series of disturbing incidents involving Clemmons while he was being tried in Arkansas on various charges.
During one trial, Clemmons was shackled in leg irons and seated next to a uniformed officer. The presiding judge ordered the extra security because he felt Clemmons had threatened him, court records show.
Another time, Clemmons hid a hinge in his sock, and was accused of intending to use it as a weapon. Yet another time, Clemmons took a lock from a holding cell, and threw it toward the bailiff. He missed and instead hit Clemmons’ mother, who had come to bring him street clothes, according to records and published reports.
On another occasion, Clemmons had reached for a guard’s pistol during transport to the courtroom.
When Clemmons received the 60-year sentence, he was already serving 48 years on five felony convictions and facing up to 95 more years on charges of robbery, theft of property and possessing a handgun on school property. Records from Clemmons’ sentencing described him as 5-foot-7 and 108 pounds. The crimes were committed when he was 17.
Clemmons served 11 years before being released.
News accounts say Huckabee commuted Clemmons’ sentence, citing Clemmons’ young age at the time the crimes were committed.
I don’t know. That’s a lot of convictions and charges. He didn’t help himself with his behavior during the trial. But he was only seventeen and sixty years is a long time. So is the eleven he served; imagine spending your 17th through 28th birthdays in prison.
Still, this isn’t enough information to judge Huck’s decision. To start, I’d like to know what the “five felony convictions” were. Possessing too much pot? Or an assault? Then how about the robbery, theft and gun possession charges? Did they result in convictions? Was this all one act? Did it involve violence? Also, how did he behave in prison? Model inmate or problem? Don’t forget the family history, either. That would help in deciding whether the guy was a sociopathic career criminal or someone who could redeem himself. Absent all of that information, it just is not fair to either slam or defend Huckabee’s decision to commute Clemmons’ sentence.
So while he’s a moron for a lot of things, it’s too early to add commuting Clemmons’ sentence to the list or reasons why Mike Huckabee should never, ever, not if he was the only person left on Earth*, be the president of the United States.
*If the was the second to last person on Earth, and Sarah Palin was the other, it would be O.K. for Huckabee to be president.