On the Police Shootings: Clemency

The murder of four police officers in Washington state is disturbing, sad, and senseless. I'll let more eloquent writers discuss the specifics of the case and the grief that loved ones are suffering.

One aspect of the story that I did want to mention was the role of former governor Mike Huckabee. The governor is not usually considered a component of the criminal justice system, but when a state's top official uses the power of clemency, that leader becomes an integral part of the system.

In 2000, Governor Huckabee commuted the sentence of accused Washington police shooter Maurice Clemmons, thereby reducing his time to serve on several felony charges and making him eligible for parole.

During his tenure as governor, it is being reported that Huckabee provided clemency to three times as many prisoners has his three predecessors combined.

In essence, the diligent work of police officers, prosecutors, jurors, and judges was flushed down the toilet as one individual used his own judgment in an attempt to assign fairness.

Huckabee's press release is troubling to me as well.

Here is an excerpt (emphasis added):

"...The senseless and savage execution of police officers in Washington State has saddened the nation, and early reports indicate that a person of interest is a repeat offender who once lived in Arkansas and was wanted on outstanding warrants here and Washington State.

The murder of any individual is a profound tragedy, but the murder of a police officer is the worst of all murders in that it is an assault on every citizen and the laws we live within.

Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State..."
Not included in the Huckabee's official statement is any acknowledgement that HE was part of the failed system. When a leader inserts himself/herself into a working system, that leader should admit failures as quickly as they seem to trumpet successes.

Taking responsibility for mistakes shows character.

Obviously, I am not an advocate for any of the presidential pardon or governor clemency systems that exist. I think it provides too many opportunities for corruption, and allows for one powerful individual to overturn decisions made by a system (thought an imperfect system I'll admit)--one with the multiple checks and balances.

My prayers are with the families.

Update: Reader "Grannye" commented and the Mrs. told me that former Governor Huckabee has been on several talk shows accepting responsibility for his decision to use clemency with Maurice Clemmons.

Though I commend Mr. Huckabee for these current actions, I stand by post regarding his initial statement about the situation. The former governor cannot insert himself into the criminal justice system to commute sentences, and then extricate himself when it is convenient to place blame on such system.
Note: The photo was used from here.


Erin said...

Amen, brother.

P.S. I'm digging your new look.

Javajune said...

Love the new look. This post is both sad and frightening. I'm not sure I will ever understand the criminal justice system or anything else run by the government. Lets hope some eyes are opened by ths tragedy.

Expat From Hell said...

Dear Slam Dunk: What an intriguing and thoughtful post. I think I, like others, tend to assume that conservatives like Huckabee will "throw the book" at anyone who crosses our lines of decency. Somehow he seems to have confused the concept of mercy with that of responsible penance. You have the wonderful combination of intelligence and insight, my friend. Who needs Mark Fuhrman when I can read your stuff! Best to you....EFH

mrs. fuzz said...

I like the new look!

I've been thinking about this a lot. It troubles me as well that there is no responsibility taken in his statement. I also heard that he's putting the blame on the prosecutors not getting their paperwork in on time to prevent his release.

I think it's safe to say that his future run for presidency might be ruined?

mrsofficer said...

I actually was just informed of this through my husband. I think its disgusting and also one week after he was released he punched a sheriff in the face? This man had serious issues with the law, how that Gov.didnt see that I dont know!

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
Every thing you say is true to the max here. He should be writing condolence letters to the nation, the Lakewood police department, and to the families. And he should take responsibility.

The only thing I worry about is that the U.S. has a short memory. A lot of times these people wait us out. I've seen it in governor elections, other places--some P.R. rehabilitation.

So, let's remember this time.

Great post! The only thoughtful one I've seen on this issue.

JennyMac said...

How does a man who contributed so heavily to the failure of the system not only criticize the system but also conveniently not remember HE helped...


J. J. in Phila said...

Excellent post. Crime and politics do intersect at times.

I am a conservative Republican. I said during the presidential election that Mr. Huckabee represented the worse aspects of the Republican Party.

We just saw several of those aspects.

Sorry for being so political.

Anonymous said...

Slam this is not the only case that has come back to haunt Gov. Huckyby, but in his defense your article did not give him credit for admitting his part of the mistake.

I watched on the O-Riley Factor as he explained his actions. I cannot say I supported him as governor, but he did take the blame for his part in this matter in that interview. (Then he spread blame outward.) Everyone who was responsible from the Judge through the Parole Board. Of course there is enough to go around.

Slamdunk said...

Grannye: Thanks for the comment. My wife said the same thing. As a result, I added an update to the bottom of the blog post.

Dan said...

Clemency is a hard road to hoe.

It is clear that the justice system makes mistakes and that some prisoners do indeed reform. However, the numbers point the other way and gubernatorial pardons are seldom done based on best evidence or true evaluation.

It is also true that there are some prisoners that should never see the outside again. I am acquainted with one young man who is in on multiple life sentences and is as nice as can be while in prison. But, he is in for multiple murder and would do it again if released. Why - because he suffers from mental disease and is great while on his lithium, but when he stops the treatment he is prone to killing sprees. And because he is such a well behaved and likable young man while under treatment, I have a deep fear that someday a governor will free him and put still more people at risk.

Christopher said...

I have many thoughts on this situation and Mr. Huckabee, but none I would want memorialized in writing, if that gives you any indication of my level of anger.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the posters for some very wise and interesting observations.
Gov. Huckaby will like the rest of us live with his mistakes.

I too like the new look Slam.