Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Huckabee. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Huckabee. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Margaret Carlson: From the Back of the Pack!

We have all had weeks now to digest the case of Maurice Clemmons, to get the facts right and to engage in insightful analysis. Now comes the plodding Margaret Carlson with this gem: We simply were not critical enough of Huckabee. The evidence? See the treatment of clemency decision making by George W. Bush, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton.

To Carlson's credit, she spares us the agony of having to read, once again, that Huckabee "pardoned" Clemmons, or that Huckabee's commutation of sentence kicked Clemmons right out onto your local street corner. No, Carlson writes: "Huckabee set in motion the parole from a 95-year sentence that put Clemmons back on the street" (the media simply cannot avoid the compelling imagery of the street)!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Clemmons Problem? Or Media Problem?

Jonathan Martin of the Seattle Times has announced ever so ominously that,
If former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is going to run for president in 2016, his campaign is going to have to run through the Forza coffee shop in Parkland, Wash. That’s where one of Huckabee’s many parolees, Maurice Clemmons, assassinated four Lakewood police officers in 2009, depriving nine children of a parent and setting a national perception that Huckabee abused his powers of clemency. 
Martin says Huckabee's "Maurice Clemmons problem" exists because Huckabee "freed Clemmons from a 108-year sentence in 2000." Seemingly to prop up the claim, Martin notes Huckabee "granted more pardons and commutations - 1,033 - than his three predecessors (including Bill Clinton) combined."

But the "Maurice Clemmons problem" is really a "poorly informed / sensationalist media problem." Martin was clever enough to identify a "perception" that Huckabee abused his clemency powers in the case of Clemmons, but boorish enough not to say what the primary mover of that perception was: second (if not third) rate - and often outright misleading - media reporting.

Mike Huckabee did not set Clemmons free, much less "abuse" his pardon power in the process. Clemmons had been given a 108-year sentence at the age of 16 (nothing to see there!). In 2000, Huckabee merely commuted that sentence - not to time served mind you - but to 47 years. By that point, Clemmons had served eleven years, but no one was set free.

Huckabee did not have the power to simply grant parole. Nor does parole rain from the sky in Arkansas. It does not flow from public drinking fountains. Arkansas has a Post-Prison Transfer Board which makes recommendations for parole to the governor after thorough investigation of each application. After reviewing Clemmons' request (supported by the sentencing judge), that Board unanimously agree to set Clemmons free, if you will - although with supervision. Clemmons could have been a bone head as Governor Jan Brewer was in the case of William Macumber. But, as he later explained:
... Clemmons met the criteria for parole and was paroled to supervision in late 2000. When he violated the terms of his parole, he was returned to prison and should have remained behind bars. For reasons only the prosecutor can explain, he ended up dropping the charges, allowing Clemmons to leave prison and return to supervised parole. Clemmons moved to his native Washington State and engaged in intermittent criminal activity that increased in violence and frequency. He was arrested on charges of raping a child, yet was allowed to post bail in Washington. While out on bail, he committed the unspeakable acts of murdering four valiant police officers.
And, as Huckabee also explains:
If I could have possibly known what Clemmons would do nine years later, I obviously would have made a different decision. If I only had the same information I had then, I would make the same decision. 
Huckabee can certainly be roundly condemned for failing to predict the future and being unable to connect dots that no one else around him could connect. And Martin certainly looks brilliant, well after the fact. As for playing on the Nixonian phobias ... not so impressive. The Maurice Clemmons problem is largely a problem of unimpressive second-guessing by media too lazy to write well, but desperate to manufacture more controversy than warranted. See full editorial here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Clemmons' Commutation for Parole Eligibility

Recent reporting regarding Maurice Clemmons, the suspect in the fatal shooting of four police officers in Seattle, is providing excellent material for understanding the dangers of the anecdote and the short-term benefits of sloppy reporting. As most of us know by now, Clemmons once had a 95 to 108-year prison sentence commuted by then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.


At least part of the logic behind the decision making at the time was that Clemmons was sentenced for crimes that he had committed when he was only 16-years old and that he had served 11 years of his sentence - readers should certainly feel free to assess the quality of that logic on its face. For what it is worth, Abraham Lincoln used it regularly in his own clemency decisions. And, by the way, you read that right up top. The guy was sentenced to 95 to 108 years! What on earth did he do? Murder ten people and rob banks inbetween? Go ahead, cut through the awful "reporting" and find out the answer for yourself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Washington: Stumbling, Bumbling Media

The reports that "prospective 2012 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says he would make the same decision" regarding Maurice Clemmons, "if given the same information he had at the time." But the author of the piece cannot create a complete paragraph without screwing up the facts:
Huckabee commented on his decision that freed Maurice Clemmons in a lengthy profile that appears in the June 28 New Yorker.
No, kucklehead. Read the 1,000 articles written on this topic and see if you can't fact check a little better. Huckabee did not "free" Clemmons in any normal sense of the English language. His commutation of sentence simply made Clemmons eligible for parole/release. An official body of individuals made the decision to release Clemmons, not Huckabee.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Post: Beating Huckabee's Dead Horse Once More (for Cheap Thrills)

The Washington Post reports that former Governor Mike Huckabee "granted clemency" to a "killer" (Maurice Clemmons) "despite" Clemmons' record. But, before another reader trips over a long-dead horse, let it be repeated: Mike Huckabee did not grant a pardon to Maurice Clemmons. He merely commuted Clemmons' sentence, making Clemmons eligible for parole. That is to say, Huckabee granted neither pardon nor parole.

Huckabee's decision was guided, in part, by more than legitimate concerns about the potential effect of racism in the 108-year sentence Clemmons received as a 16-year old - you know, the same concern people are expressing with regard to the Scott sisters. After an examination of Clemmons' case, a State board then unanimously decided to release him.

Yet, oddly, the Post focuses on Clemmons' "record" of violence in prison, and says little or nothing critical of the Board's decision. The focus is, instead on Huckabee "a potential candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 2012." That speaks for itself. See Post article here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hat Tip to the Old Man

I remember several of my high school teachers encouraging me to read the newspaper, "at least once a day." I don't know if that was a nation-wide, regional or local educational strategy thing. But I remember it well. I also remember my old man's witty lampoon of that policy: "You would have to read the newspaper every day to be that stupid!" I really do have the very highest respect and admiration for great journalistic efforts, but, the longer I live, it seems the witty side of my old man's remark is increasingly outweighed by a kind of novel accuracy. (Only the people who know me best understand how difficult it was for me to write that last sentence!)

If you read the typical American newspaper this week, you got this kind of impression:

The State of Arkansas tried its best to lock away a cold-blooded, violent murderer and child molesting rapist by giving him a 100-year prison sentence. But Republican Mike Huckabee exercised his unilateral power as Governor and pardoned the man, launching him into the streets, where he promptly continued his previous campaign of rape and murder - just as any intelligent person would have guessed that he would have!

If you had time enough to cut through the poor reporting, you learned:

1. Arkansas did impose a 100+ year sentence, for crimes committed by a 16 year old.
2. Not included in the list of crimes: murder, rape.
3. A judge recommended clemency for the prisoner.
4. The original sentencing judge did not oppose the recommendation for clemency.
5. A parole board unanimously recommended clemency for the prisoner.
6. Huckabee acted upon recommendation, not unilaterally.
7. Huckabee pardoned no one.
8. Huckabee's commutation of sentence did not free anyone from prison.
9. Huckabee's commutation simply made the prisoner eligible for parole.
10. Huckabee's commutation came after the prisoner had served 11 years in prison
11. Parole was granted by a state board.
12. The state board's decision was supported by a judge.
13. Almost a decade after he was released by a parole board, the former prisoner shot and killed 4 policemen.

One would have to say there is a high price, indeed, for reading the newspapers!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

No Mercy for Dumb Washington Times Editorial !

The Washington Times contains the most peculiar editorial regarding Mike Huckabee's clemency decision making. Along the way, it reads:

The broader lesson here is that governors and presidents generally should leave clemency decisions for violent offenders to trained parole boards. Sure, there is good reason for giving chief clemency powers to chief executives ... But murderers and rapists are a different matter. A single executive, with hundreds of other responsibilities, is unlikely to be familiar enough with each case and each personality to determine if an individual convict is a threat to strike again. If a judge and jury, upon due consideration, imposed a certain sentence on a violent criminal and an expert parole board has not seen fit to reduce the sentence, a governor or president treads on thin ice in overruling them. It's an injustice that four officers of the peace had to die to teach Mr. Huckabee that lesson.
First, Mr. Clemmons was not a "murderer" or "rapist" when Gov. Huckabee commuted his sentence to make him eligible for parole. Second, Huckabee's commutation was in fact recommended to him by a unanimous vote of a parole board. Third, a parole board (not Huckabee) then granted parole, allowing directly for Clemmons' release.

In sum, the Washington Times is altogether clueless when it suggests Huckabee had anything at all to learn along the lines suggested in the editorial. Indeed, had he needed any such lesson, he would have simply PARDONED Clemmons on the spot and set him free. But he did not do that. He trusted the parole board to make the best decision - since it had more and better information - regarding parole for Mr. Clemmons.

And that is why we say this: No mercy for the blockhead who wrote this editorial.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Washington: Racing to Irrationality

Now that the media have had a week to misrepresent the commutation of sentence that Mike Huckabee granted almost ten years ago to Maurice Clemmons, we have arrived at assessment stage of the story. Many agree that Huckabee's presidential aspirations are toast. But others are noting something that would be outright hilarious were the matter not so serious. That's right, some are speculating that it may become even more difficult for individuals to get pardons and commutations of sentence! Yes, the Huckabee pardon backlash may lead us to a tremendous crackdown on the exercise of clemency!

Let's see, Barack Obama hasn't granted a single pardon or commutation of sentence in 317 days as president (making him the 5th slowest president of all time). How shall Mr. Obama crack down on clemency? Revoke pardons granted by his predecessors?

We can't blame Washington governor Chris Gregorie for taking a hard line position on clemency, for PR purposes. Gregorie has received only 215 requests for clemency in the five years she has been in office. But, now, we must be all greatly concerned to learn that she, somehow, granted pardons to 26 convicted criminals! We do not know the nature or impact of those 26 decisions, but, if the media's coverage of the Huckabee affair has taught us anything, it is that none of that really matters.

In her favor, Gregoire turned down an board supported clemency application for a convicted murderer who committed the crime. when he was 13. But she must now realize, under the new Huckabee rules, that she is responsible for the actions of the 26 convicted criminals that she pardoned for at least 4-5 more years.

See story here.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Top Ten Clemency Stories of 2009

 10: In April, Senator John McCain announced that he would, once again, push for a presidential pardon on behalf of the long-dead boxer, Jack Johnson. Bill Clinton was the first president to ever issue a posthumous pardon (to the first African-American graduate of West Point, Henry Flipper). With good reason, every administration previous to Clinton refused to even entertain such applications. George Bush granted two posthumous pardons (one to Charlie Winters, the other unintentionally). But toward the end of this year, the Obama administration indicated that it would return to the policy of using the pardon power for the more practical purpose of providing real relief for those who are living (no offense to to the shallow, desperate, well-after-the-fact and purely symbolic politics of Congress, the least popular branch).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Huckabee on Pollard

It is reported (here) that former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is calling on President Obama to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard. Pollard has now spent 26 years in federal prison for spying on behalf of Israel. Says Huckabee:
“Right now we don’t need anything that reflects that we are anything but an absolute ally of Israel. This [freeing Pollard] would send the right message to the rest of the world, that America is not pulling back on its friendship and relationship with Israel but it is accelerating it and making sure that we are taking every step possible to solidify those bonds.”
Without referencing any particular benchmark, Huckabee also says Pollard has served a disproportionately long sentence.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Politico: Palin Can't Resist Piling On

The Politico reports Sarah Palin is now in on the inaccurate and after-the-fact piling on of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Palin is reported to have said that Huckabee made a “horrible decision” nine years ago when he commuted the prison sentence of Maurice Clemmons, making Clemmons eligible for parole.

Palin is not known to have said anything about the Clemmons commutation over the last nine years. Nor are we aware that she has ever been critical of Huckabee's interest in the clemency power generally. It is only now, nine years after the fact, that she says, "It was a bad decision obviously." The Politico also reports:

As governor of Alaska, she said she had never been in the position of having to grant a prisoner clemency, adding that “most Alaskans know me well enough to know that I don’t have a whole lot of mercy for the bad guys.”

“I’m on the good guys’s side,” she said. “I’m all about redemption and recovery and reform and all that. But I will always error on the side of punishing even stricter, even harder on the bad guys.”

Outstanding. If a person is about to be executed and there is some evidence of innocence, Palin will err "on the side of punishing" and go ahead with the execution! Brilliant. See complete Politico piece here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Leadership v. Gutless, Unjust, Opportunism

Re former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's decision to make Maurice Clemmons eligible for parole via a commutation of sentence, Errol Louis writes:

Huckabee could have done the easy, politically safe thing by letting ludicrously heavy sentences stand. Instead, he opted to bring a measure of proportionality, compassion and common sense to a justice system that needs more of it.

and adds:
Huckabee made a tough decision that many others would have ducked. That's not a liability, it's leadership.
See full editorial here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

USA Today on Huckabee

From USA Today:

If governors are blamed for any pardon or grant of clemency that ends in grief, they will simply get out of this business. They pretty much have, with Huckabee being the most notable exception. Governors should certainly be judicious. But there are reasons for pardons to continue — including reasons of public safety.

There simply are not enough prison beds to keep criminals behind bars as long as they should be there. Elected officials add to this problem every time they legislate mandatory minimum sentences, taking away the discretion of judges and prosecutors to evaluate which convicts should get shorter terms to free up space for those who should stay in prison longer. Governors and presidents still have unlimited discretion, but they use it at their own peril.

... The nation would be well served to have competent officials making thoughtful decisions. If they did, crime rates might actually go down as the worst criminals could stay in prison longer.

In this case, Huckabee exercised his professional judgment and made a decision he later regretted, as do we all. Other governors avoid these mistakes simply by not making these decisions. That may do wonders for their political prospects. But, on balance, it doesn't make the world any safer.
See complete editorial article here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

NY Mag on Huckabee

The following is an excerpt from New York Magazine:
... But, despite the blame being heaped upon Huckabee, Clemmons's clemency request was supported by a county circuit judge, and his parole was unanimously approved by a parole board. It also goes without saying that nobody would have supported letting him out of prison if they thought he would have a mental breakdown nine years later and commit murder. Furthermore, Clemmons has been back in jail repeatedly since his initial release, only to be set free again and again for various reasons unrelated to Huckabee ...
See entire article here.

L.A. Times: Above the Fray. Bravo!

The L.A. Times features an editorial entitled "In Huckabee's Mike Defense." Among other things it notes:
Clemmons was 16 years old when he committed the string of robberies and burglaries that resulted in his 1989 conviction, and his sentence was astonishingly harsh for such a young perpetrator. A county circuit judge supported Clemmons' application for clemency a decade later. Huckabee made Clemmons immediately eligible for parole by cutting his sentence in half, but the decision to set him free was made by the parole board. It's unreasonable to expect Huckabee to have anticipated the events in Parkland nine years later.

See full editorial here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Campaign 08: McCain and the Pardon Power

Over at Sentencing Law and Policy, there is commentary on Scott McClellan's new book, Scooter Libby and John McCain's views on things. I had actually started a post on McCain and the pardon power back in February and just never got around to proofing it up. This might be the time to let it out. Here is what I came up with:

* On January 26, 2001, Senator John McCain called Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich "a disgrace." But, then again, who didn't? I mean, other than Mrs Clinton - whose obfuscations can be enjoyed here.

* On July 17, 2004, McCain announced that he would join others in order to pursue a posthumous pardon for legendary boxer Jack Johnson, who violated the Mann Act in 1913. McCain believes Johnson "was an incredible athlete" who "made significant inroads for other African-American athletes" and that the "use of a law was perverted" when it sent such a "decent American to jail."

* On January 9, 2007, McCain was non-commital with respect to a possible presidential pardon for Scooter Libby, but said that he would give it "careful consideration" if prison time were in the mix. On March 6, 2007, McCain had no comment on Libby's conviction. Afterward, on June 6, 2007, he continued to say that it was important to just "see what happens" in the Libby case.

* When the Libby commutation finally landed, July 3, 2007, McCain was asked if he had any comment. The response was a simple, "Nope." Then, two months later, on September 3, 2007, he accused President Bush of dodging a tough decision saying, "I’m very reluctant to second-guess, but I have to say I would have pardoned him or not pardoned him.” Anyone else see anything humorous about that quote?!

* Mike Huckabee, who appears to be under consideration as McCain's running mate noted, in January that, if he (Huckabee) were elected president, he would pardon U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean. Huckabee said he would make the pardon his "first act." But McCain has not taken a position on the agents to date. Maybe it is safe to say that McCain will either pardon, or not pardon, them!

Updated 5/31/08

Friday, January 25, 2008

Arkansas: Request

On Friday, the Arkansas parole board voted 3-1 in favor of clemency for a woman convicted of murder and kidnapping in 1977. Governor Mike Beebe (D) is being asked to commute Twyanna Faye Martin’s life sentence and make her eligible for parole. The request, however, is opposed by a prosecutor and a sheriff. A report notes Beebe will consider the recommendation after a "30-day public comment period."

Martin was 19 years old at the time of the offense and was convicted along with three others. Today, she declares that she has sought forgiveness from the family of the victim, but adds that she got "too much time" for a crime she did not commit. In 2000, Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) announced that he intended to grant Martin clemency, saying he had the support of the victim's family. But some family members said they were not consulted. After the "public comment period," Huckabee took no action. In October 2006, the board recommended clemency, but Huckabee completed his term two months later and left office. See complete story here and here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Newspaper Man Against Pardons

Gary Dickson is the publisher and editor of the Lake County (CA) Record-Bee. And today's issue features an editorial explaining why Mr. Dickson does not "believe" in "presidential pardons, governor commutations or early release programs." Dickson's commentary is pointed, but often without focus. It appears to inform, but actually misleads. He can at least be given credit for writing what many others probably think, but do not actually come out and say.

Dickson asks, rhetorically, "Whatever happened to 'You do the crime you do the time?'" and insists that "it doesn't work that way" in America any more because we "are soft toward criminals." Of course, the pithy rhetorical response to Dickson's question is that "Doing the time went out the window - and rightly so - back when we also tossed out the equally important notion that the punishment should fit the crime." He does not appear to be aware of the fact that mandatory minimum sentences, three-strikes laws and the like have been crippling the judicial systems' ability to tailor punishments to crimes. One has to also wonder how the massive prison population of this country squares with his "soft toward criminals" perspective.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Toobin: Still the Worst of the Worst

When Jeffrey Toobin last stepped on the public stage re the pardon power, he was parroting the ignorant line that President Bush would have to grant a pardon to Scooter Libby, or Libby would go to jail. He seemed to have no idea what a commutation of sentence was, or a respite. It was a dramatically pathetic display for such a high profile "legal expert."

Now, Toobin is back, suggesting President Obama's "orderly mind" - and the fact that he is a "consummate rationalist" - is the cause of his disastrous record in the matter of clemency - the foolish premise being that pardons are outside of the world of separation of powers and checks and balances ... you know ... the Constitutional order and what not.

No, to Toobin, a merciless administration is a really smart one.

"Pardons," Toobin writes, "rely exclusively on the whim of the grantor." If, by that, he means, it is an executive power, then sure. Just like legislation relies exclusively on the whim of the legislature. And judicial review relies on the whim of courts. And ... you get the idea.

But, worse, Toobin carpet bombs his readers with stupidity when he fails to recognize the fact that there is a Department of Justice, an Office of the Pardon Attorney, the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons, the Deputy Attorney General, judges and U.S. Attorneys who vet clemency applications. Presidents are not sitting in bed late at night, reading thousands of applications, one a time, by candlelight, then flipping a coin and making decisions on how they feel right before they dose off. Maybe Toobin does not know what the word "whim" means.

Toobin writes, "his Presidential power is descended from the concept known in Great Britain as the royal prerogative of mercy"- which is great stuff for Hallmark greeting cards. But what he needs to do is pick up the Federalist papers and see Alexander Hamilton's discussion of the matter. The Founding Fathers developed an orderly Republic featuring a very rational system of checks and balances because they assumed judges and legislators are not perfect - Toobin may disagree. Regardless, presidents are not kings. We elect them. We override their vetoes. We cut off their funding. And we can impeach them to boot.

Toobin writes: "A commutation allows a convict to leave prison at a designated date." Wrong. It reduces the severity of a sentence. Toobin should know that. Scooter Libby never served a day in prison but received a commutation of sentence.

Toobin writes: "In seven years, Obama has now issued ... only sixty-one pardons." Wrong. Obama has granted 66 pardons.

Toobin writes: "All Presidents and governors (who also have pardon power) are haunted by the possibility that they might release someone who goes on to commit horrible crimes. (Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas pardoned several people who did just that.)"

Gaaawwwd ! While encouraging the President to pardon, Toobin unwittingly spreads the virus that has persistently discouraged pardoning: stupid commentary. Huckabee did not pardon Maurice Clemmons. Clemmons has never been pardoned by anyone. Further, Clemmons was released via the decision of a parole board, not a pardon. Beat up on them, Mr. Toobin. Show off. Look up their names.

When it comes to bad commentary about pardons, Jeffrey Toobin is hard to beat. See this train wreck here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

AP Writer's Epic Fail: The Wahlberg Application

Steve LeBlanc of the Associated Press has produced a piece re Mark Wahlberg's application for clemency which begins with the odd observation that the application "has focused fresh attention on excusing criminal acts." Odd, of course, because Mr. Wahlberg has served his time (45 days, back when he was 18 years old, in the 1980's). Wahlberg has not flaunted, bragged about / glorified his troubled past (as many do). He has expressed remorse repeatedly. A life-time of responsible, law-abiding behavior followed his conviction, as well as a world of charitable good works.

Mr. Wahlberg is not asking to be sprung from prison. He is not being asked to be declared "innocent." He is simply asking the state to officially recognize that which is beyond dispute - he is most certainly no longer the young punk that committed those criminal acts. To officially recognize responsibility, penitence and rehabilitation is not to "excuse" anything, in any sense of the language!

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