You may have heard that four police officers were murdered in a coffee shop in Washington state over the weekend. It turns out that the “person of interest” in those killings has a pretty extensive record in Arkansas, and that potential candidate Mike Huckabee, who I’m decidedly not a fan of, commuted his sentence. But it’s worth noting why, and as much as one might like to, why Huckabee doesn’t deserve the lion’s share of the blame.
At the time, the man in question, Maurice Clemmons, had been in jail for eleven years at that point, and had been in jail since he was seventeen. Clemmons was the victim of a truly horrible sentence: sixty years for armed robbery. If you do the math, Clemmons would literally have spent his entire life behind bars, and he might as well have been sentenced to life for a non-capital crime.
Of course Huckabee commuted his sentence. Faced with the idea of a man having his entire life taken away basically because the judge was feeling unpleasant that day, wouldn’t you? Especially in light of Huckabee’s religious convictions (as I said, I don’t like the man’s politics, but his religious convictions do seem sincere), it’s not hard to see why he took pity. And, even if Clemmons is a monster, good for him. Compassion has to be a central part of governance, and we should respect anyone who shows it while in office.
Of course, Clemmons violated parole and was back in jail in fairly short order, but apparently got out long enough to go to Washington State, where he continued to break the law, but with increasing severity.
Here is, to me, the really outrageous part: Clemmons was facing five other felony charges in Washington state, including child rape. And the state, for some inexplicable reason, let him out on bond. That’s especially horrifying because pedophiles tend to be repeat offenders; let them out and they WILL do it again. In other words, there was no way this wasn’t going to end badly.
True, Arkansas probably should have had Clemmons committed for mental illness well before he got to Washington state: that’s Arkansas’ failure. But five felonies? Including child rape? Jesus Christ.
Let’s put the blame where it’s due: the system clearly failed to spot a serious problem. Clemmons is clearly mentally unbalanced and should have been put away. But Huckabee was just one part of a much longer chain. It makes more sense to call out the people who released a child rapist on bond.