Huckabee retreats on clemencies
JOHN HOFHEIMER -
Leader staff writer
Mike Huckabee on Tuesday backed down in the face of mounting public
outcry over his announced intention to grant clemency to three more
murderers. He also outlined recommended changes to the clemency policy.
____ Locally, that means that former Air
Force Sgt. Glen M. Green will not be released from his life sentenceat
least not yet.
____ Green, who severely beat Gravel Ridge
resident Helen Lynette Spencer in 1974, tried to rape her, ran over
her twice with his car and pitched her body into a bayou, may reapply
for executive clemency under the proposed new policy, Huckabee said.
The governor denied two other clemencies.
____ Since he first announced his intention
July 6 to grant this new round of clemencies, the governor has faced
escalating criticism from area prosecutors and media coverage that seemed
to grow daily. Family members were critical, victims' rights advocates
spoke up and at a Tuesday morning press conference, Parents of Murdered
Children be-seeched the governor to reconsider the clemencies and his
____ Huckabee has issued more pardons and
clemencies since taking office in 1996a total of 669than
any governor since Orval Faubus.
____ He was accused by critics of arrogance
and lack of compassion for victims and their families. More than 1,100
people had signed an Internet petition opposing the clemencies.
____ Huckabee has previously refused to
comment both on the clemencies and the controversy, but by mid- afternoon
Tuesday, he announced that he would take no action on Green's application,
and he denied the clemencies of Charles Philyaw and Dennis Lewis, meaning
those two men won't be eligible to reapply for four years, according
to Saline County Prosecutor Robert Herzfeld.
____ Herzfeld last April challenged a commutation
and has drafted proposed changes to the Arkansas law governing executive
clemency, changes he said would make the process more transparent.
Among the changes proposed by the governor:
- The governor's office will release a form in each clemency case
that gives a reason for any action taken. "The public deserves
an explanation," Huckabee said in his announcement. Crime victims,
their families, the law enforcement community and citizens in general
deserve a more detailed explanation, he said.
- The Post Prison
Transfer Board will review its process, strengthen its fact-find
process and give more detailed reasons for its recommendations.
- Have the legislature
give the board subpoena power as it investigates clemency and parole
- The governor
will ask the legislature to review the requirement that a governor
review every case submitted to the Post Prison Transfer Board and
act within 120 days.
Herzfeld on Tuesday called it "a tremendous first step. He said
he hoped the governor would explain reasons for granting clemencies
through narratives, and not by checking items on a list.
____ Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley,
out of town on vacation, said he was "Happy to learn that the concerns
regarding the nearly 700 commutations and pardons may finally be getting
attention," according to Mara Malcolm, his administrator.
____ Huckabee has issued 567 pardons and
102 clemencies since taking office in 1996, more than any governor since
Orval Faubus, according to information provided by the Secretary of
State Charlie Daniels' office.
____ "I look forward to reviewing
the policy changes upon my return and I hope it satisfactorily addresses
the issues raised by victims, family members of victims, law enforcement
and citizenry," Jegley said.
____ The governor's statement said, "With
regard to three recent notices of intent (to commute sentences) I've
benefited greatly from information provided during the 30-day public
comment period. I want to thank prosecuting attorneys Lona McCastlain
and Brent Haltrom for their professionalism."
____ McCastlain of Lonoke County, who last
week delivered to the governor the complete file on Green's murder case,
said Tuesday afternoon, "I am relieved and very grateful that he
reconsidered his decision. (Spencer's family members) were very grateful
and appreciative. The dad has already written governor expressing his
____ "We've been working on this for
three weeks. I will continue to fight his clemency. I do not believe
he deserves it."