Huckabee retreats on clemencies
By JOHN HOFHEIMER - Leader staff writer

____Gov. 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 sentence–at 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 policy.
____ Huckabee has issued more pardons and clemencies since taking office in 1996–a total of 669–than 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 matters.

  • 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 appreciation.
____ "We've been working on this for three weeks. I will continue to fight his clemency. I do not believe he deserves it."