Kin against clemency
By JOHN HOFHEIMER - Leader staff writer

____Now that they've been located, surviving family members of Helen Lynette Spencer, the 18-year-old Gravel Ridge woman brutally murdered by executive-clemency-candidate Glen M. Green, want the governor to hear their opposition, according to Lonoke County Prosecu-tor Lona McCastlain.
____ On July 6, Gov. Mike Huckabee served notice of his intent to reduce Green's life sentence and make him immediately eligible for parole, but has refused to say why.
____ Spencer's brutalized body was found–a hand sticking out of the murky waters of Twin Prairie Bayou in Lonoke County, the outline of her body barely visible–in 1974, more than two weeks after she was killed, according to the investigation report by the Jack-sonville Police Department.
____ Green, an airman, saw Spencer on Little Rock Air Force Base, tried to rape her, smashed a hole in her skull with Chinese fighting sticks, beat her, threw her unconscious body in the trunk of his car, tried again to rape her, and ran over her twice before pitching her into the bayou and taking off on leave, he told detectives.
____ Now he wants out of prison, and on the recommendation of preacher Johnny Jackson, of Little Rock, Huckabee has said he will grant Green clemency over the objection of the Post Prison Transfer Board.

POSTER BOY
____ Jackson calls Green "the poster boy for rehabilitation."
____ Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley says Jackson was "conned by a con."
____ Huckabee has granted 567 pardons and 102 commutations since taking office in 1996–more than all other governors combined beginning with Winthrop Rocke-feller in 1967 according to figures provided by the Secretary of State's Office.
____ McCastlain is among several public officials who have expressed opposition to the governor's continuing parade of clemencies and commutations in recent years, especially involving murders. It was the Lonoke County Prosecutor's office in 1975 that prosecuted Green for the murder, which began on the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville and was consummated in Lonoke County.
____ McCastlain, the current prosecutor, has asked the governor to reconsider, saying of Green's sentence, "Life is life."
____ Jegley has asked the governor for a moratorium on commutations and asked the general assembly to look into the matter.
____ Currently, only the inmate's application for clemency is available for public scrutiny according to Rhonda Sharp, spokesman for the state Post Prison Transfer Board–formerly called the parole board.
____ Sharpe said documentation, supporting and otherwise, cannot be released because it would violate the confidentiality of those submitting it–and could threaten their safety.
____ Saline County Prosecutor Robert Herzfeld has gone even further, proposing changes to Act 16-93-202, changes that would make the process more open and subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Infor-mation Act.
____ In March, he won a skirmish in the battle when inmate Don Jeffers' clemency was voided, but Jeffers already has reapplied, Herzfeld said.
____ Herzfeld said state Rep. Janet Johnson, D-Bryant, and state Sen. Shane Broadway, D-Bryant, had agreed to sponsor his proposed amendments to the statute when the General Assembly reconvenes next winter.
____ He said the changes would require a simple majority in both houses, but that if the governor vetoed the bill, it would require a two-thirds majority to override the veto.

PROPOSED CLEMENCY CHANGES
____ Currently, the statute includes this language in section (d)
____ (1): "A pre-sentence report, a pre-parole report and a supervision history obtained in the discharge of official duty by any member or employee of the Post Prison Transfer Board shall be privileged and shall not be disclosed, directly or indirectly, to any person other than the Post Prison Transfer Board, a court, or other entitled under this chapter to receive the information.
____ (2) However, the Post Prison Transfer Board or a court, at its discretion, may permit the inspection of the report, or parts thereof, by persons having a proper interest therein whenever the interests or welfare of the person involved makes that action desirable or helpful."
____ Herzfeld and Bilenda Harris-Ritter, a victim's advocate, have proposed rewriting that section to read: "All written information used or created by the Post Prison Transfer Board or its staff in taking official action shall be available to the public upon request pursuant to the terms of the Freedom of Information Act."
____ Other changes proposed by Herzfeld would require applications for executive clemency to contain all supporting documentation for the application and prohibit the board from considering any other favorable information.
____ The application would have to be notarized and if it contained any materially untrue statements, the board would have to reject the application and not revisit clemency for the applicant for four years.
____ The board would be required to post the entire application, attachments, and letters of support on the Internet within five days of receipt.
____ Herzfeld's changes would require the publishing in a newspaper of record of applications for clemency twice in the case of applicants serving sentences for capital murder.
____ If two or more of the persons notified by law objected in writing or person, then presumption is that the board will recommend denial and must state reasons if they vote otherwise, according to his proposal.
____ Herzfeld proposes that the governor, upon granting an application, shall include a substantive explanation for granting executive clemency, which shall describe in detail the reasons for the governor granting clemency and address specifically any objections raised in writing.
____ State Rep. Will Bond, D-Jacksonville, says he favors making the process "more transparent," and that the governor is "addicted to granting clemencies."
____ But he has not yet read the changes proposed by Herzfeld, a friend, and cautions against sweeping changes without careful thought.
____ "We need to strike a balance between the governor's power to grant clemency and the public's right to know and understand," he said. "This governor isn't always going to be the governor," he said.

 

 

"Life is life."

–Lona McCastlain
Lonoke County Prosecutor