Kin against clemency
JOHN HOFHEIMER -
Leader staff writer
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 founda hand sticking out of the
murky waters of Twin Prairie Bayou in Lonoke County, the outline of
her body barely visiblein 1974, more than two weeks after she
was killed, according to the investigation report by the Jack-sonville
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.
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 1996more 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 Boardformerly called the parole board.
Sharpe said documentation, supporting and otherwise, cannot be released
because it would violate the confidentiality of those submitting itand
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)
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
(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