December 3rd, 2009
09:14 AM ET
9 years ago

Huckabee defends decision to commute Washington police shooting suspect

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Mike Huckabee commuted Clemmons' sentence when he was governor of Arkansas in 2000."]
JACKSONVILLE, Florida (CNN) - Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Wednesday he was aware of Maurice Clemmons' long and violent criminal history when he commuted the then-teenager's 108-year prison sentence - but he couldn't have foreseen the deadly consequence of his act.

"You're looking at this nine years later and trying to make something as if I can look in to the future," Huckabee said, before a speech at Jacksonville University.

Related video: Huckabee on clemency decision

"I wish I could have. Good Lord, I wish I had that power. I wish I could have done that. But I don't know how anyone can do it," he said.

Clemmons, 37, was fatally shot Tuesday by police in Seattle, Washington, after a two-day manhunt that began after he allegedly killed four officers at a coffee shop

Huckabee has come under fire because, as governor of Arkansas in 2000, he signed a clemency order for Clemmons. That made Clemmons eligible for parole, which was granted.

The prospective 2012 GOP presidential candidate said he was aware of the long string of crimes that had put Clemmons behind bars, but based his decision on the teenager's age: 16 at the time.

"I read a stack this thick," he said, holding his hands several inches apart. "I looked at the file. Every bit of it. And here was a case where a guy had been given 108 years. Now, if you think a 108-year sentence is an appropriate sentence for a 16-year-old for the crimes he committed, then you should run for governor of Arkansas."

Clemmons served 11 years of his sentence before he was released.

Clemmons moved from Washington to Arkansas as a youngster. There, he had several run-ins with the law, and was eventually handed the hefty prison sentence for a host of charges - including robberies, burglaries, thefts and bringing a gun to school.

During a pre-trial hearing, he hid a piece of metal in his sock, court documents show. Before the start of another hearing, he grabbed a padlock off his holding cell and threw it at a court bailiff. He missed, and the lock hit his mother who had come to bring him clothes.

"That's the one word that came to my mind that I remembered about him was that he was mean," said W.A. McCormick, who was a deputy prosecuting attorney at the time. "He was shackled in court and deputies placed behind him while he was tried - because he was such a security risk."

Clemmons continued to lash out violently behind the prison fences in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

"Over and over again," said Larry Jegley, the prosecutor who put Clemmons away.

"Failure to obey, engaging in sexual activity," he rattled off the charges as he flipped through Clemmons' prison record, "failure to obey, possession or introduction of drugs, firearms."

McCormick said he told the parole board - repeatedly, in writing - that Clemmons should remain in prison. And he would have opposed it once again if he knew that Huckabee was considering commuting Clemmons' sentence.

During his 2008 presidential bid, Huckabee was criticized for granting
clemency to another inmate, convicted rapist Wayne DuMond.

DuMond was later convicted of raping and murdering a woman in Missouri.

Before he accepted responsibility for his decision, Huckabee first blamed Clemmons' alleged actions on Sunday to failings in both Arkansans and Washington's legal systems.

But Jegley pointed the finger directly at Huckabee. One survey, he said, showed Huckabee issued more clemencies from 1996 to 2004 than the governors of all six surrounding states, including Texas.

"He needs to bear responsibility for that," Jegley said of the former governor's decision to grant clemency to Clemmons.

"We did everything that we could do with him and got him sentenced to 108 years. Mike Huckabee, with the stroke of a pen, undid that."

Filed under: Mike Huckabee
soundoff (116 Responses)
  1. Rogue

    Hey lets lay off Huck. Its not his fault this animal shot cops. The laws took care of what the law did not allow Huck to do. Exterinate the vermin. Huck is a good man. America would be blessed to have him as President!!!

    December 3, 2009 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  2. Scot

    I have to tell you....I respect Mike Huckabee as a Christian man but I am absolutely speechless!!! The absolutely horrible judgment exhibited by this man 9 years ago is just pathetic and to say that he would make the same decision today is beyond the pale!!! This is a classic example of what is wrong with virtually all of our "leaders" today. The lack of common sense is just astounding!!!! What is the most uncommon thing in the whole world? The answer is .....COMMON just does not matter if this guy was 16 years old at the time or was obvious for anyone to see who was willing to look that he was a certiable sociopath....the equivalent of a rabid dog.....What do we do with rabid dogs? You remove them from the population, period....end of negotiation....nothing......

    December 3, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  3. appropriate sentence for a 16-year-old for the crimes he committed, then you should run for governor of Arkansas

    I understand, so you gave him 'time served' and the parole board let him out

    how about a little research, could you have brought in a pschologist to evaluate him? I know some prison psychologists and they are very good at judging these prisoners, I don't think he should have been let out

    are you solely responsible, no, should you be judging other people's decisions and saying you would do it better (i.e. run for president)?

    No, I do not think you would be a good president, I think your ability to weigh consequences and make sound decisions is ABSOLUTELY in question

    December 3, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  4. Clint

    Just say that God told you to do it, that should cut a lot of ice with the families of the victims.

    December 3, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  5. Rob

    Huck says he could not foresee the future. Neither could Dukakis... Somebody needs to 'splain to me why this is any different than Willie Horton. Vaya con dios, Huck.

    December 3, 2009 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  6. Harry M

    Yes, Mr. Huckabee I do think that some dirt bag, even a 16 year old dirt bag, who got a 108 year sentence for a litany of crimes should serve out more than 11 years for said crimes. I thought republicans were supposed to be hard on criminals. This was one of the R's great hopes for 2012 other than that Nanook nut job and this is his stance on criminals. Not innocents, criminals. A good web site would track all of the people he let go and see how much perpetual crime came from Huck's poor decisions.

    December 3, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  7. Tracy

    Mike Huckabee: Epic Fail

    December 3, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  8. Chris

    For being such a self-proclaimed religious example, Huckabee lacks the quality that matters most: Foresight. For one who purports to study the Bible and live by and apply its principles, he leaves much to be desired in his application of Biblical teachings such as inspiration, justice, and diligence. Huckabee is in to letting mercy rob justice, and this is a classic case that highlights the man's misjudgment. If he is ever elected again for anything, this is a sign of things to come for a guy who is better suited as an etertainer than an elected official. Looking at Mitt Romney's record in Massachussetts, his approach to such heinous criminals, one of "zero tolerance"–an approach that has been criticized by many–is there any question that Romney is the only viable choice for making 2012 a truly happy year in America?

    December 3, 2009 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  9. JoeJoe

    You read through the whole documents, knowing how much crime he commited EVEN when he was only 16 years old and you still partdoned him, it just proved that your brain is full of trash, back then and as of today. Look at all the excuses you made trying to defend your irresponsible decision based on religious and political decision back then, you are in sane...

    December 3, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  10. gt

    sometimes people will never change ,,, this guy was a animal ,,, just like the animal that kill ann presley in little rock....

    December 3, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  11. Tom in Desoto, Tx

    Sure seems like a "Willie Horton" moment for Huckebee. He'll no doubt try to use that floksy style of his so pass it off. Perhaps he'll tell a joke or pay the guitar. Yea, that ought to do it.

    December 3, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  12. Russ

    Great job Huckabee......let these violent people back out on the street but stand in the way a woman's right to choose. You bible thumpers need to wake up and realize you are living by the word of a novelist. You would do better to adopt the Twilight Series as your bible. Even that is a bit more realistic than the bible for Christ's sake!!

    December 3, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  13. Puddin

    There is entirely too much of releasing hardened criminals before they are rehabilitated going on. Not only the Clemmons guy, but criminals such as Jaycee Dugard's rapist. He really did a mind number on her. The concern she is showing for him presently is not only heart-breaking, but nauseating.

    December 3, 2009 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  14. john

    I am so happy that the heat is on him at this time because all he dose is talk smack all the time about Obama he never has nothing nice to say.

    December 3, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  15. ICARE

    Governor Huckabee,

    Thank you for giving this boy a chance.

    Some of us, like the Pharisees, declared ourselves, ultimately above all sinners, yet, we make fatal mistakes too. We may not have shot people to death, but there's plenty of dead walking around Wall Street BECAUSE our government failed to do the right thing and protect people, instead we protected the special interests. The consequence is a fallen economy.

    So dont feel so bad. You reached out of your Soul and saw a possiblity or chance for redemption. It didnt come thru, but showed your understanding of love and forgiveness.

    If you did it out of genuine love and forgivness, knowing this person cant ever pay you back, you're a REAL MAN!!!

    December 3, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  16. TCM

    Funny how the liberal MSM is focusing on Huckabee, who commutated the guy's sentence from life to 47 yrs, at age 16...when he was in Arkansas...but, they're saying nothing about the two liberal judges in Washington state who BOTH let the guy bond out for punching a police officer and raping a little child....where's the story about those two, CNN?

    December 3, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
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