seek more openness on pardons
you talk to prosecutors around the state, many of them will tell you
they're unhappy that Gov. Huckabee pardons criminals without letting
law-enforcement officials or victims' families know why he's doing it,
as he's required by law.
___ "He doesn't take giving clemency
very seriously," complains Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Robert
Herzfeld, who will push for new legislation next year to make the clemency
process less secretive.
Herzfeld and several other prosecutors we've talked to think the system
needs to be more open. They say prosecutors, victims' families and the
public should know how and why the governor issues clemencies.
"People believe the worst when the process is not open," Herzfeld
says. "They have no faith in the clemency system."
legislation to reform clemency in Arkansas would go a long way toward
opening the process with better regulation," Herzfeld says.
prosecutor told us that a system of checks and balances is needed to
make sure the governor does not abuse his powers. Without reforms, this
prosecutor fears Huckabee will offer mass amnesty to hundreds of criminals
before he leaves office and no one could stop him. Herzfeld thinks the
governor's office should not only notify victims' families about future
clemencies, but he should post all clemency petitions and letters of
support on the Internet for everyone to see and to contest any underserved
pardons before it's too late. "Take away the backroom deals,"
governor told us he acts on only 10 percent of the clemency petitions
he receives, but that means hundreds of pardons every year, prosecutors
is not exaggerating when he says Huckabee's pardons policies are "fatally
flawed." When the governor first came into office, he announced
that convicted rapist Wayne DuMond had been framed and pushed for his
with the evidence against DuMond, Huckabee de-nied him clemency, although
a backroom deal with the Post Prison Transfer Board allowed DuMond to
move to Missouri, where he soon killed at least one woman and probably
successfully sued to keep a murderer named Don Jeffers behind bars (at
least for a while longer) after Huckabee granted him clemency without
explanation as required by law: "On granting an application (for
executive clemency), the Governor shall include in his written order
the reasons thereforeŠ."
General Mike Beebe, in nullifying the pardon, agreed that the governor
had erred when he didn't give reasons why he had pardoned Jeffers and
didn't even contact the prosecutor or the victim's family about how
he felt about the pardon.
was a tremendous victory," says the 30-year-old prosecutor. "This
was not only the first time a prosecutor had filed a lawsuit against
a governor but had actually won." Jeffers had strangled a Bryant
man during a home burglary in 1980 and is serving a life sentence without
parole for murder and 25 years for armed robbery after he plea bargained
to avoid the death penalty.
thinks that a life sentence without parole should mean just that: There's
no way out until the caretaker carries you to the cemetery.
can reapply for clemency, but Herzfeld hopes more publicity and pressure
from the victim's family might persuade Huckabee not to grant Jeffers
clemency again. Under Herzfeld's legislative reforms, inmates who have
been denied clemency couldn't reapply for four years. Now they can reapply
expects Jeffers will ask for clemency again in July or August. "It's
a nightmare," the prosecutor says. "It's something that has
to be fixed. The people of Arkansas are demanding that the system be
Jeffers is a cold-blooded murderer who should never see the outside
of a prison," Herzfeld insists.
is fighting clemency for an-other Saline County killer named Denver
Dual Witham, who is also serving a life sentence without parole.
1974, Witham and a cousin beat their victim to death out in the woods
with a lead pipe and beat him repeatedly so that the victim's
face was smashed almost beyond recognition. "His entire face was
gone," the prosecutor says.
accuses Witham of lying on his clemency petition to make it seem that
he had killed his victim in "a barroom brawl" as if
that had made the crime less awful.
a liar," Herzfeld says of Witham, who could face perjury charges
because of his whitewashed clemency application.
says Witham, who plays in the prison band, hid five previous felonies
from his clemency application and had threatened the previous sheriff.
is the person the governor wants to let out of prison," the prosecutor
says. "No word yet on whether the governor will change his mind
or go ahead and grant clemency to this convicted murderer who lied on
his clemency application and made threats towards former public officials,"
Herzfeld told us.
governor has to wait 30 days from the date he announced his intent to
grant clemency on May 21. My guess is that the governor will release
his decision on Witham late this Friday afternoon before the long holiday
Next: Huckabee's attitude.
prosecutors go on offensive
trade jabs over sentencing, pardoning of killers, other thugs
prosecutors around the state are upset with Gov. Huckabee for grant- ing
clemency to violent criminals, but he is blaming the prosecutors for often
not seeking the maximum penalty and keeping felons locked up longer.
B.B. goes home then to funeral
King didn't seem his usual old self last weekend when he was performing
in his hometown of Indianola, Miss.
___ He put on two fine shows in one evening,
but he seemed a bit distracted. [FULL
Clintons in lovefest with Bush
there's anything more unappealing than watching politicians mud wrestle,
it's watching them pretend they like each other.
insincerity, Presi-dent Bush praised his predecessor on Monday during
an unveiling of the Clintons' official (and utterly mediocre) White House
World-class blues played near here
couple of great blues musicians showed up at Sticky Fingerz in Little
Rock on Thursday night.
___ Michael Burks, probably Arkansas' most
talented young bluesman, dropped in to catch Deborah Coleman and her band
and he was impressed.
Reagan had won in '76
of words and thousands of images have filled newspapers and television
screens since the passing of Ronald Reagan on Saturday.
colleagues, politicians and scholars have discussed every facet of his
remarkable life: How he started out poor, became a Holly-wood star, found
a second career on television, then a third as a corporate spokesman,
and yet another, more spectacular career as a politician.
His life has been thoroughly examined this week, but one crucial period
and its consequences are virtually overlooked: His losing out to President
Ford for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 1976, which,
it could be argued, helped the Soviets stay in power for several more
These Vets couldn't go to unveiling
Albert Jonikas couldn't make it to the dedication of the World War II
memorial over the weekend.
an 84-year-old veteran of the Second World War who saw action in the Pacific
- Iwo Jima, Saipan, Okinawa, which was near where the Japanese surrendered
- but he doesn't get around much anymore. [FULL