Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Huckabee, Baptists, clemency and Clemmons

If Huckabee were a progressive Democrat, any plans for national office would now be officially dashed in a wave of "coddled criminal" images; the name "Willie Horton" would now be on a closed loop on cable news. But Huckabee already faced questions about his clemency orders (and horrifying outcomes) during the 2008 primaries and he pretty much was given a pass by his base of Christian Conservatives. I could be wrong and the death of four police officers might be enough to draw even more scrutiny to his clemency decisions and lack of accountability or justification, but I suspect that 1.) religious conversion is still a powerful narrative among the Huckabee faithful, even when it's bogus, and 2.) the fault for Clemmons release will fall squarely on "activist judges" who won't go on O'Reilly to explain why they're at fault and not the governor.

The sad thing is that it may well turn out that Huckabee made a bad decision about Clemmons, but granting clemency to a teenager sentenced to over 100 years in prison for burglary was probably the right thing to do. Of course, though, Huckabee didn't put it that way then and is unlikely to do so now.

“Victims groups were pretty well ignored, along with boots-on-the-streets law enforcement and good citizens who sit on these juries,” said Larry Jegley, who objected to Mr. Clemmons’s clemency request as the prosecuting attorney for Pulaski County, where he was convicted.

Robert Herzfeld, then the prosecuting attorney of Saline County, wrote a letter to Governor Huckabee in January 2004, saying his policy on clemency was “fatally flawed” and suggesting that he should announce specific reasons for granting clemency. Mr. Huckabee’s chief aide on clemency wrote back: “The governor read your letter and laughed out loud. He wanted me to respond to you. I wish you success as you cut down on your caffeine consumption.”

As an aside, I never cease to be amazed at what powerful people or their proxies will not hesitate to put in writing.

UPDATE: TNC, as usual, puts it the way I was trying to.

I've highlighted this issue for two reasons. First, I think it's important for liberals concerned about criminal justice to speak up on principle. That it's Mike Huckabee--whose views on gay rights, abortion and the Confederate flag, I find deplorable--pursuing that principle shouldn't change things. We keep saying we want conservatives to be "reasonable" about these issues. It strikes me as unhelpful to knife one for short-term partisan gain.

Read the whole thing for reason two.

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