An Unwelcome Reminder for Mike Huckabee

Last year, Mike Huckabee’s presidential aspirations took a serious blow when Maurice Clemmons murdered four Washington state police offices because it turned out that Clemmons, an Arkansas native, had been sentenced to 108 years in prison only to have his sentence commuted by then Governor Mike Huckabee.

Immediately, conservatives jumped all over Huckabee and declared that he could never be trusted as president while Huckabee began feverishly defending his actions, claiming that he had commuted Clemmons’ sentence because it was disproportionate and blaming others for having dropped the ball.

Since then, the issue has more or less faded away … or had, until the Seattle Times ran this long report about Clemmons’ criminal history that landed him in prison and then kept him there, noting that “Clemmons racked up eight felony charges in seven months” and then refused to accept any plea bargains and ended up with a total of 108 years, though prisoners typically only served one-sixth of their sentence.

In 2000, Clemmons wrote to Huckabee seeking clemency and Huckabee, who had a history of granting such requests at a rate far greater than his predecessors, granted it seemingly without much investigation: 

Huckabee called himself a “grace” Christian, not a “law” Christian, and what was clemency but an act of grace?

In his 10 ½ years as governor, starting in 1996, Mike Huckabee emerged as a political force, an ordained minister who could draw votes from across the political spectrum.

He spoke in support of “restorative justice,” and backed up his words. In 17 years his three predecessors approved 507 clemency requests. Huckabee granted twice that many: 1,033.

Clemmons wrote a letter to Huckabee, saying he was seeking compassion and mercy: “God Bless You … It is so prayed!” Asked the grounds for his request, Clemmons checked a box for “excessive sentence.” He also checked this box: “My institutional adjustment has been exemplary.”

But Clemmons’ adjustment had been just the opposite. The same year he filled out this clemency application, the Arkansas Department of Correction reduced Clemmons’ time in prison to this damning score sheet:

“Disciplinaries: 29 Times.

Achievements: None.”

In May 2000, Huckabee granted Clemmons’ plea for clemency, citing Clemmons’ youth when sentenced. The governor commuted the sentences for four of Clemmons’ eight felony convictions, making him immediately eligible for parole.

Huckabee is already hamstrung by right-wing activists who believe him to be insufficiently hard-line conservative … and presumably this article recounting Clemmons’ criminal history and Huckabee’s role in freeing him is only going to reinforce that reputation.