Let us not white wash
governor mike huckabee clemencies
Huckabee retreats on clemencies
JOHN HOFHEIMER -
Leader staff writer
Feeling Presure, Huckabee decides to keep killers locked up, although
Glen Green, who murdered a Gravel Ridge teenager, could reapply next year.
Families push for reforms
JOHN HOFHEIMER -
Leader staff writer
Just three housrs before the governor's unexpected reversal on his clemency
policy, Parents of Murdered Children pourd their hearts out at a rare
press conference. [FULL
Kin against clemency
JOHN HOFHEIMER -
Leader staff writer
Helen Spencer was killed 30 years ago. Her family doesn't want the governor
to free her killer, while area prosecutors propose more accountability
from the governor in the commutation process. [FULL
Former cop rips pardon
By JOHN HOFHEIMER
AND RICK KRON
However Helen Spencer died, her murderer should spend the rest of his
life in prison for his brutal acts. [FULL
us not whitewash governor's Clemencies
Huckabee surprised his critics yesterday and admitted he's been wrong.
____ After weeks of pressure from victims'
families, prosecutors and this column, Gov. Huckabee has changed his
mind about granting clemency to several murderers, including a psychopath
who killed a Gravel Ridge woman.
____ Glen Green, the convicted murderer
who is serving a life sentence for the brutal murder of Helen Lanette
Spencer, would have gone free in a few weeks if Huckabee hadn't caved
in to pressure and withdrawn his offer of clemency.
____ Scores of other killers who had hoped
to find themselves in Huckabee's good graces will have little chance
of getting out anytime soon.
____ Realizing that his don't-ask, don't-explain
policy on clemencies was costing him dearly, Huckabee did an about-face
on Tuesday and promised a more "transparent" process in the
____ Until Tuesday, he ignored both public
opinion and state law when he refused to say why he was releasing murderers
from prison, often over the objections of his own parole board.
____ The suspicion was that jailhouse conversions
got killers out of prison, but now Huckabee has had a conversion himself.
"I want to do my best to explain this sometimes complex process,"
he said in a statement on Tuesday, after years of silence about how
he decided who should live and who should die.
He announced new "tougher guidelines" and a willingness to
listen to everyone who has an interest in clemency cases. You wonder
what took him so long.
"I've thought about it a great deal and now realize that the greater
good is served if a more detailed reason is provided," said Huckabee,
who will face a hostile Legislature next year that will almost certainly
clip his clemency powers.
It's a humiliating retreat for a governor who thought he was unstoppable.
Until yesterday, he said his critics were politically ambitious prosecutors,
but when prosecutors from his own party spoke out against his clemencies,
Huckabee realized that if he didn't back down, he'd hurt the Arkansas
Republican Party for a generation.
He's now doing what Gov. Clinton did after his humiliating defeat in
1980, when he was criticized for releasing murderers without explanation.
That's what Huckabee has done for the last eight years, especially during
the last 18 months, as he freed killers at a rapid pace and angered
victims' families and others who were offended by his insensitivity.
Clinton apologized for his mistakes, promised not to do it again and
was re-elected in 1982. He issued very few clemencies after that and
went on to bigger if not better things.
For the next 20 years, his successors seldom issued clemencies, but
Huckabee dramatically re-versed that trend, which is why he finds himself
in trouble now.
You know a governor is in trouble if his supporters say his record isn't
as bad as Orval Faubus' when it comes to clemencies.
Those who try to whitewash Huckabee's record must go back four decades
to find a governor with a worse record than Hucka-bee.
Until Tuesday, Huckabee didn't even demand that these killers admit
their guilt before asking for clemency. The Rev. Johnny Jack-son, who
had arranged the aborted clemency deal for Glen Green with his friend
the governor, describes Green as a humble Christian man apparently
one of Huckabee's criteria for clemency.
But the state requires that a killer express remorse for his actions,
which Green refuses to do, calling the murder "an accident."
The Rev. Jackson says he accepts Green's "account of the incident"
actually a brutal assault, murder, attempted rape and drowning
of a beautiful young woman in 1974.
Even with Faubus' shocking record on pardons for the well-connected
it's deja vu all over again, isn't it? Huckabee was still
handing out clemencies at a rate that would have outpaced Faubus and
even Winthrop Rockefeller.
What's more, the Arkansas Victims' Bill of Rights was not in place when
those prior governors were commuting sentences without victim input.
Huckabee and his appointees were ignoring the laws on the books, including
the re-quirement to notify victims' families and to explain the reasons
for those clemencies.
Rockefeller, who succeeded Faubus, also issued dozens of clemencies,
but he gave a complete, honest explanation: He was opposed to the death
penalty and commuted death sentences to life in prison.
In those days, many prisoners were on death row for other crimes than
murder, such as rape. Faubus (or his pals) sold pardons or handed them
out to supporters' friends and relatives. Read Roy Reed's "Faubus:
The Life and Times of an American Prodigal" (University of Arkansas
Press) to learn how evil and corrupt the prison system was back in the
1950s and 1960s.
Let's hope those shameful days are long past. But because Huckabee wouldn't
explain his high-profile clemencies, people have wondered about his
motives. We know why Faubus granted pardons, but we can only guess why
Huckabee is signing off on them.
At the rate Huckabee has commuted sentences, he could have gone well
above 1,000 pardons and commutations before his term expires in January
2007. As we reported here several weeks ago, he has commuted more sentences
(102) and pardoned more criminals (567) than his three predecessors
He has freed more convicts than Bill Clinton 10 times Clinton's
commutations between 1983-1992 and the comparison with Govs.
Bumpers and Pryor are just as bad: Only 138 pardons and commutations
for Bumpers, and 153 for Pryor. Gov. White (bless his memory) issued
only 39 pardons and commutations, the same as Jim Guy Tucker, Clinton's
successor. Do you detect a trend? For the last 20 years, as victims'
families demanded justice for their loved ones, politicians have granted
clemencies with reluctance. (Clinton learned this painful lesson after
he issued 138 pardons and commutations between 1979-1981 and lost his
re-election bid. After his comeback two years later, he issued just
75 commutations and 351 pardons over the next 10 years.)
Rockefeller's clemencies to-taled 480 (which included commutations for
death-row inmates). The execrable Faubus is in a class by himself: Only
partial records exist, but he issued at least 533 clemencies and probably
well over 1,000 pardons in the 1960s.
Times have changed since those bad old days, and no governor should
get away with commuting the sentences of criminals without telling us
Victims' families deserve notification ahead of time and an explanation
of every clemency. Hucka-bee often does neither and even overrules the
Post-Prison Transfer Board if it decides against him on pardons, as
it did, unanimously, when the board rejected a pardon for Glen Green.
There are still those who are sticking by their man (including a handful
in the media), as they excuse the governor's record-setting pardons
and commutations by pointing out that two of his predecessors four decades
ago reduced more sentences than has Huckabee.
Don't let anyone confuse you with the figures. We'll give them to you
straight, as we have throughout July as the Little Rock media chased
after the numbers and some reporters even made the brazen claim that
Huckabee can't be all bad because back in 1971 Rockefeller commuted
many more sentences, and so did Faubus back in the 1960s.
Rockefeller and Faubus are dead, and they can't defend themselves, but
several living governors who issued fewer commutations than Huckabee
have expressed regret over some of the clemencies they'd granted.
Until this week, Huckabee remained silent because he thought he was
above reproach. His critics have brought him down to earth.
Huckabee's clemencies are scandalous for many reasons. Not least is
the anguish he has caused the victims' families, about which he doesn't
give a flip.
He has set execution dates for those he considers unworthy of clemency
because they have not converted or don't work at the governor's mansion
or don't play in the prison band and (shame on him) have the wrong color.
So Huckabee is not merely an executioner but also an appeals judge who
overturns a jury's original verdict.
At least Rockefeller would let everyone know what he was doing. Huckabee
hasn't said much until this week. Occasionally, he talked presumptuously
about redemption, and that was about it.
Pardons were handed out more liberally in the old days before victims'
rights became an issue. Back in the 1960s and even the 1970s, victims'
families were seldom heard from, but they're now a major force, and
any governor who ignores them risks becoming unpopular. That's what
has happened with Huckabee, and he's just waking up.
The Legislature should bring him down a notch or two and severely limit
his clemency powers.
parole a monster like Green?
Huckabee probably never read the confession of a demented killer named
Glen Green before he made the monster eligible for parole.
___ Green's confession is so depraved, its
sadistic details so scary that no sane, responsible adult would consider
him for parole.
Huckabee's dubious achievement
Governor sets record for clemencies
Huckabee is on a roll: He has freed more convicts than all of his recent
predecessors combined more than 10 times as many as Gov. Clinton
during a 10-year period from 1983 to 1992. [FULL
goes own way on pardons
across Arkansas have had their differences with Gov. Huckabee's generous
pardons policy, but what bothers them the most is Huckabee's superior
attitude when they dare to object. [FULL
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. [FULL
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. [FULL
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. [FULL
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