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. Kendall

    During the 2008 campaign Huckabee was struck down by the amount of Pardons and to whom they were given two. Now Huckabee is the person who single handily contributed to the deaths of 4 heros.

    He couldn't have known the future but a person who commits atrocious crimes as a youth will NOT be reformed by our DOC. It just doesn't happen. HE should've known better

    November 30, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain

    Taking the low road here ... If any political opponent tries to make hay with this tragedy, the rightwingers will cry foul.

    And yet those same rightwingers hold up as a genius Lee Atwater and his Willie Horton ad that helped defeat Michael Dukakis in 1988.

    Lee Atwater ... Karl Rove's mentor ... the dirtiest of political strategists and the force behind the McCain smear campaign in 2000, the Swift Boating of John Kerry in 2004, and the lies and misinformation we unfortunately have come to expect as part of our political process as opposed to reasoned, thoughtful debate.

    Thanks, GOP – NOT!

    November 30, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. TBA

    Mike Huckabee, you FAILED.

    November 30, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  4. Robert

    And based on the factors involved, he likely made the right decision at the time. There is no way Huckabee could have foreseen the future for this person....

    He should never be held responsible for it.

    Having said that, I think we all know that if a Democrat had been the one to release this guy he/she would have been crucified by the right. Fix news would have had a heyday with it...

    Can you imagine someone like this having been released by Clinton or Obama (had Obama ever been in a position to do so?)

    Bet we won't hear a peep of criticism from the right directed at Huckabee on this. And we shouldn't. But it would be nice if the double standard that exists on both sides in the political arena would disappear..

    November 30, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  5. gt

    3 strikes and you out ....sad day for everyone ...kill this animal ....

    November 30, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  6. Joe

    I don't expect Mike Huckabee to take the blame for that, and he shouldn't. Maybe that's a wake up call for the administration and to President Obama to review their policy and to pay more attention at our local terrorism than some cavemen in Afghanistan, and to use some of the money allocated to the war over there which has nothing to do with us over here, because I just can't find yet an Afghan-American citizen in any kind of a terrorist plot to kill anyone, neither I found an Iraqi in the same situation. Someone like Clemmons, is a terrorist on the loose. In this case the Justice Department failed. As much as Major Hasan at Ft. Hood Texas, where Homeland Security failed, and the Department of the Army. So we have a problem here in our own backyards. Lets take care of our homes first, and then we take care of theirs.

    November 30, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. Ken in NC

    The first failure of the justice system took place when the then Govenor Huckabee announced his decision to commute the sentence of this Clemmons guy. If he had not had his sentence commuted he would not have been released on parole.

    That is the reason I have always held and maintained that a person given 20 years should serve the 20 years. If it was intended that the person only serve 10 years then that is what he or she should have been senentenced to.

    November 30, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  8. single mom

    Okay, given the original charges, I can understand why Huckabee would have approved a commutation. What I don't understand is after the parole violation why prosecuters dropped the latter, more violent charges.
    And does anyone know in which state these latter charges occurred?

    November 30, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  9. Robin in Tampa, FL

    The Justice system works Huck ... you just granted the wrong guy clemency.

    November 30, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  10. Kerzell, CA

    Do these people "EVER" take responsibility?

    November 30, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  11. Tracy

    Mike Huckabee: #1 failure point of the Arkansas justice system. Congratulations, sir.

    November 30, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  12. Padraig

    That was a lame answer from Huckabee. Looking at his prior convictions should have sent warnings to everyone that this person is a serious risk to the community.

    November 30, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  13. F*&^abee

    He was of of the failures in the justice system. He is so toast. Even if he has an "intellectual" argument, he will get shredded by the righties for this and his other parole that ended badly. I suppose it s Gods will ....

    November 30, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  14. Mark L.

    After what the right-wing did to Dukakis over Willie Horton, I think it's safe to assume we will see the double standard applied here in it's full glory. The "justice system" falied this time, in other words, the smarty-pants activist judges from ivy-league institutions have flexed their muscles all the way down in Arkansas. A religious conservative would never be to blame for such a mistake. If they can't pin it on someone else, out pops the "God's plan" defense. Oh, the duplicity.

    November 30, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  15. S M R

    Commute a 95 year sentence? It was your call Mike and you blew it. Now go away, you are not Qualified to be President!!! Signed: A grieving resident of the seattle area.

    November 30, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  16. John

    Let the Republicans, Huckabee included, think about what they did to Michael Dukakis about this same issue and hang their heads in shame.

    November 30, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  17. republicans hate america

    so typical. when the GOP does something wrong they never own up to it. they always blame it on outside factors all the while they would be all over someone doing the exact same thing. rush limbaugh and his drug problems, Sanford cheating on his wife and fighting impeachment while he thought is was a good idea for clinton, the list goes on and on and on.

    November 30, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  18. john in binghamton NY

    ""If I could have known nine years ago, looked into the future" Nice, wouldn't we all do things differently if we already knew the future? Can Obama now use this stupid excuse? I am guess Huck and the FOX crew will not let him get away with it. I don't have an issue with him letting the guy go after 11 years for something he did when he was 17, but the back tracking I have a problem with.

    November 30, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  19. bk

    Hey Huckabee! Can you say "Willie Horton"?!!!

    November 30, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  20. Sahra

    Notice how everytime a Republican screws up they always find a way to look like the victim and blame it someone, something or somehow!

    Wasn't Me.....

    November 30, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  21. Perecorp

    Excuses from more GOP pond scum....

    November 30, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  22. diridi

    well, this idiot will fix it...ok....humbug...and nonsense....GOP you did enough damage to the nation...shut up....idiots...

    November 30, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. winston

    another idiot trying to weasel out....shame on you

    November 30, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  24. Steph

    I have yet to hear him apologize to the families of the police officers.

    November 30, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. Grog in Ohio

    Somehow, I'm not expecting a Willie Horton ad from Democrats against Huckabee. I suggest fire be fought with fire.

    November 30, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
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