Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TOP STORY > >Comparing pardons by governors

Leader executive editor

(This column won first place in the Arkansas Press Association’s Better Newspaper contest. Winners were announced Saturday during the APA’s convention in Hot Springs. The column was published in The Leader on Oct. 19.)

Did you see Gov. Beebe’s latest list of pardons? Last week, he announced his intent to pardon a handful of small-time criminals, emphasis on small-time.

Their crimes included theft of property, shoplifting, forgery, overdrafts, possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, third-degree battery, forgery and conspiracy to commit robbery.

They’re nothing like Mike Huckabee’s list of pardons and clemencies: No murders, no rapes, no armed robberies, no mayhem. There’s no one on Beebe’s list like serial rapist and murderer Wayne DuMond or cop killer

Maurice Clemmons, whose freedom Huckabee championed.

What’s more, Beebe’s pardons have the approval of law-enforcement officials. Huckabee almost never consulted with them.

He didn’t care what local prosecutors and sheriffs thought of freeing his thugs because supposedly he knew them better than did their victims and their families and the prosecutors who convicted them.

We’ve been saying for years Huckabee pardoned thugs like DuMond and Clemmons without looking into their violent pasts. He just assumed they were innocent or had paid their debt to society.

Prosecutors warned him not to do it. He said they were grandstanding. He dismissed our reporting as exaggerations.

After his release, DuMond killed two women in Missouri and Clemmons murdered four police officers near Seattle.

More details about Clem-mons’ violent background are reported in a new book called “The Other Side of Mercy” by Ken Armstrong and Jonathan Martin, two Seattle Times reporters who have delved into Clemmons’ criminal record and sociopathic behavior in Arkansas prisons.

Clemmons was out of control: He started robbing kids in school. He later broke into a state trooper’s home and then a cop’s home.

He beat up a woman during a parking-lot holdup. He attacked his guards during one trial and even tried to grab one of their guns.

Clemmons also threatened to kill the judge.

He was always in trouble in prison. A repeat criminal who routinely sodomized fellow inmates and terrorized those who didn’t cater to his needs in prison, Clemmons nevertheless portrayed himself as a victim of a racist criminal system.

He convinced former Pulaski County Circuit Judge Marion Humphrey and then Huckabee that he’d been punished enough.

Everyone in the criminal-justice system knew Clemmons was incorrigible, but not Mike Huckabee. He thought Clemmons could be saved and wished him well in his new life in Washington state.

We now know how well that turned out. Neither Humphrey nor Huckabee have expressed much remorse for their roles in the tragedy.

Humphrey and Huckabee couldn’t be bothered with doing a thorough background check on Clemmons, who killed himself last November as he was about to be arrested for the police killings.

Humphrey has avoided the limelight since the pardon, but Huckabee is doing very well as a TV host and best-selling author.

He’s also a leading candidate for president in 2012, although we’ll probably hear from the victims’ relatives — there are dozens of them — when the race gets under way.

His political opponents might also raise questions about Huckabee’s judgment, which ended in six murders.

Compared to Clemmons and DuMond, Michael Dukakis’ Willie Horton was an angel.

So what do you call politicians and judges who enable murderers to kill again?

Accessories to murder.