Tragedy struck over the weekend in Washington State, when a man ambushed and killed four police officers. The suspect in this crime, it turns out, was granted clemency and released from prison back in 2000 during Mike Huckabee's last term as Governor of Arkansas.
Sadly, political rivals of Huckabee's are beginning to try to capitalize upon this tragedy to promote their own candidates and agendas, when the facts of the matter are that, if it turns out it was this man who did this, it was a reasonable use of clemency when he was released nearly 10 years ago.
Here is what Mattew Yglesias has to say about it on his blog:
"When Clemmons received the 60-year sentence, he was already serving 48 years on five felony convictions and facing up to 95 more years...The crimes were committed when he was 17. 60 years for burglary and theft for an eighteen year-old seems incredibly excessive. In this case, of course, you can’t help but wish he were in fact still in prison. But it’s hard to see what about a record of involvement in burglaries would make you think this was a guy at risk of doing something like this."
Here's what is interesting about those who are leaping to criticize Huckabee for this. They are making themselves look foolish, and the more details that come out the more foolish they are going to look.
For example, did you know that according to the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, Clemmons was released from jail just 6 days ago by Washington State officials?Clemmons, the paper says, was released after posting bond on a charge of child rape. Furthermore, his release just 6 days ago came even though he faced seven additional felony charges in Washington state.
Not only that, but Clemmons' behavior in recent weeks in Washington State had shown a very disturbing turn for the worse. According to CNN, he was known to have punched a police officer in the face, expressed belief that he was Jesus, and forced his family to disrobe in front of one another. Furthermore, he is said to have claimed to family members the night before the shootings that he was going to kill policemen.
And no one reported it.
Did you also know that back in Arkansas, after he was released from prison for teenage burglary conviction, Clemmons violated parole and was sent back to prison to serve his full term, only to be released again because the prosecutor's office took over 3 years to file the proper papers? Yes, that's right, according to CNN.
The system tried to work, but the prosecutor's office blew it by opening a window for Clemmons' attorney to argue the charges must be dropped.
Where is the outrage at the Washington State judge who set bail on Clemmons 6 days ago?
Who is questioning the Clemmons family's silence after hearing him say he was going to kill policemen the night before he did it?
Where is the outrage at the Arkansas prosecutor who failed to file the proper papers to keep him in prison after his parole violation?
Why are we talking only about Huckabee's role which, I'll argue, is the only part of this that is actually justifiable?
While politically convenient for Huckabee's rivals, such attacks are not only unwarranted and do not take into consideration the failures of the Arkansas prosecutors or even the much more recent and questionable actions of Washington State officials, but is completely insensitive to the families of those four police officers.
The question here is not whether clemency granted under Huckabee is questionable, but whether the entire clemency and legal/judicial process nationally needs to be overhauled.