November 30th, 2009
02:16 PM ET
5 years ago

Huckabee: Justice system 'failed miserably' with Clemmons

Mike Huckabee commuted Clemmons' sentence when he was governor of Arkansas in 2000.
Mike Huckabee commuted Clemmons' sentence when he was governor of Arkansas in 2000.

(CNN) – Mike Huckabee took to the radio airwaves Monday to explain why, as governor of Arkansas in 2000, he commuted the nearly 100-year prison sentence of Maurice Clemmons, the man suspected of murdering four police officers in Washington state.

Clemmons was sentenced to 95 years in prison in 1989 for a host of charges, including robberies, burglaries, thefts and bringing a gun to school. Huckabee cited Clemmons' young age - 17 at the time of his sentencing - when he announced his decision to commute the sentence, according to newspaper articles. Clemmons was paroled in August 2000, after 11 years in prison.

On the Monday morning episode of "The Huckabee Report" - the Republican's daily radio commentary - he pointed to "a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington state" as the reason Clemmons was allowed to re-enter society. Repeating what he said in a statement released Sunday night, Huckabee noted that the Arkansas parole board granted Clemmons' parole after he received the commutation.

"He was arrested later for parole violation, taken back to prison to serve his full term, but prosecutors dropped the charges that would have held him," Huckabee told listeners. "It appears that he has continued to have a string of criminal and psychotic behavior, but was not kept incarcerated by either state."

Huckabee, who is considering a making second presidential run in 2012, also spoke to Fox News radio about his decision.

"If I could have known nine years ago, looked into the future, would I have acted favorably upon the parole board's recommendation? Of course not," he said. "One of the things that is horrible and just, again, one of the realities you have to confront is the criminal justice system is far from perfect, and in this case it failed miserably on all sides."


Filed under: Mike Huckabee
soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. David

    As you always do Suckabee. I can understand that the guy was a minor at the time. But hopefully this will further sully this clown that has no business on the national stage. Tax hike Mike!

    November 30, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. abq-mom

    Interesting that Gov Huckabee is blaming "a series of failures in the criminal justice system." He's right, but it misses the point of the governor being ultimately responsible for his commutation decision. If it was a Democrat who had commuted the sentence, some Republicans would already be shouting "soft on crime" and "another Willie Horton."

    November 30, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  3. Rev Right

    Huck is this your roundabout way of admitting faulty decision making on your part? Or was the error because of the 'system'? Huck, your chickens have come home to rooooooost...

    November 30, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. Steve in Kentucky

    No, Mike, YOU failed miserably.

    And now, whatever presidential aspirations you have left will fail miserably. Ever heard of Willie Horton?

    Whether the ads are produced by your fellow Repuglofacists or the Dems, you will be the bullseye for the Clemmons ads - and this will make Willie Horton look like a small-time thuglican in comparison.

    November 30, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  5. Fan of Common Sense

    Uh Mike, I don't think you can blame this entirely on "the system." Does the name "Willie Horton" mean anything to you?

    November 30, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  6. Gov Dukakis

    Can Anyone say Willie Horton.. Just How Ironic
    is it that the architect of the Willie Horton campaign Roger Ailes now Director of News at FOX NEWs is now Gov Hucks boss– Hey gov you are about to get politically fragged by the GOP dirt machine

    November 30, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  7. Dave

    What a load of crap. Who was the guy who did the pardoning? Ever hear of the the term "the buck stops here"? How about taking some responsibility for your actions. Alarm bells should have been ringing when anyone wanted to parole a guy who is serving a 95 year prison sentence. This is common sense.

    Mike, I like you, you're a great guy but on this one you are full of cow dung. Man up and accept responsibility. This guy should have never been left out with parole, let alone a pardon.

    November 30, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  8. Erich

    He'd still be in jail if you hadn't commuted his sentence, Huckabee. 98 years for multiple – multiple – felony convictions, and you decided it wasn't fair? Go tell the families of the 4 slain officers that.

    November 30, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  9. thatstheticket

    Well, Mike, I hope it's not held against you like Willie Horton was held against Dukakis. Let's see how THIS one plays out.

    November 30, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  10. BestProfitCompany = WAR

    Well, there goes his chance to get the rethuglican nomination. Isn't this the second time he let a criminal out early that led to more violence? Sounds like a typical rethuglican, act without thinking.

    November 30, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  11. Retired US Army Officer-Kansas

    It would seem to me that had common sense been applied and a reasonable sentence first imposed on a 17 year old offender, rather than a 95 year sentence, then Governor Huckabee might not have commuted the sentence and Clemmons might have served time in prison and possibly, heaven forbid learned something or at the very least received treatment he was in need of.

    November 30, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  12. Chris Lacks

    I sure do like Mike Huckabee and I will be very disappointed if he doesn't run in 2012.

    November 30, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  13. J

    REALLY?!?! The JUSTICE system put him in prison for 95 years.. YOU LET HIM OUT and now 4 cops are dead. Don't you dare try and blame someone else for your own bad decision making.

    I would have had more respect for Huckabee if he would have just admitted that he made a bad decision and just gave his rational for commuting his sentence in the first place.

    November 30, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  14. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    Willie Horton was USED by Republicans in a successful attempt to derail the Dukakis presidential campaign, opening the door and justifying this kind of campaigning to be used in the future – like NOW!

    The "funny" thing is, that Republicans will probably use the "W" model and use this guy to defame Huckabee, long before Democrats will ever get the chance.

    I predict that Sarah Palin will be the first to bring up this unfortunate circumstance and (like every other irrelevant issue she raises) ("bump and") grind it into the public eye.

    November 30, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  15. welches, oregon

    Everybody's fault but your own, huh Huck? If you hadn't of commuted his sentence in the first place – he wouldn't have been let free to continue his criminals activities – some gov'r you are – but at least you finished your term – something hard to do I heard. Either you failed or your advisors failed – either way – you're to blame.

    Trying to quence the fires early on are you? I'm sure more 'incriminating' events will turn up on you. But go ahead and run for Pres – it's a career spoiler for any Republican

    November 30, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  16. SAI

    Cannot help thinking – this is Mike Huckabee's 'Willie Horton' millstone. Another Mike (Dukakis) was bush-whacked with second-guessing such a parole decision – and I am sure Mike Huckabee will have his fellow Republicans (who know how to do such things well) tear him apart in the primaries if he runs in 2012.

    November 30, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  17. I am the not-so-great and powerless wizard of Rush

    So much for 2012.

    November 30, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  18. Tiffany

    Ok republicans and the tea parties, go ahead and say it. This is President Obama's fault, just like everything esle!

    November 30, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  19. Brad

    Another conservative politician refusing to take personal responsibility for his actions. Had this been a Democrat who commuted the sentence of a man suspected of killing 4 cops, conservatives would be going ballistic 24/7.

    Taking personal responsibility for one's actions has nothing to do with morality...or conservatives. It's only about political posturing.

    November 30, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  20. Jane/Seattle

    Now this man will be working overtime to shift any and all responsibility for his poor decisions solely over to WA State! They'll all be passing the jabs from one to the other. This type of issue should play well for his defeat in any upcoming elections. But then, he is a so-caalled Christian and maybe all will be forgiven. Remember, it was his poor choices that started this ball rolling over to my state. The dropping of the theft and assault charges was also another bad move. Why is a man accused of child rape even out on these streets? It seems like everyone in this affair messed up. Now 4 more are dead! How about giving folks like me a reall job? I guarantee I'd not make this mistake!

    November 30, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  21. Martin (Austin, Tx)

    While this is not quite a Willie Horton moment, it does expose some of the failings of the criminal justice system. Nowhere in the article was there any mention of treatment given to this individual who was clearly in need of psychological attention. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is more about punishment and less about rehabilitation, even though most of the incarcerated will gain release. Too bad we’re not investing in intervention and remediation. And finally, this incident shoots holes in the argument that more armed citizens would cause pause for deranged shooters. Tragically, the victims were well armed and well trained members of law enforcement. May the shooter never be free again.

    November 30, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  22. yuri

    Or Huckabee himself bit the dust, in letting Clemmons, the animal, go prematurely, due to his under-age status. Could it mean clouding of consciousness for Mr. Priest, folks?

    November 30, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain

    Huckabee is still the one who commuted Clemmons' sentence in the first place – Clemmons never would have been able to violate his parole if Huckabee hadn't put the ball in motion.

    Given the severity of the crimes for which Clemmons was convicted – as further evidenced by the long prison sentence he received (100 years)- his sentence should never have been reduced by 90%. A better solution would have been to perhaps reduce his sentence by half (50 years instead of 100), with the stipulation of psychiatric monitoring and therapy as a condition of parole.

    It sounds like Huckabee was trying to score political points with the commutation, instead of doing the right thing. Makes me wonder what kind of advisors he surrounds himself with, let alone what kind of judgment he has.

    November 30, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  24. Bob Pacific Grove, Ca

    Gotta love the way Huckabee ducks any responsibility that HE might have screwed up by commuting Clemmon's 100 year prison sentence, blaming it on everyone else.....Spoken like a true republican.....What a CON artist!!!!

    November 30, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  25. Perry H

    You failed miserably Huckabee!!

    November 30, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
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