by Max Brantley
(UPDATE: The subject of this item, wanted for questioning in four police slayings, is reportedly cornered by police. Police believe he was wounded in the shooting, based on accounts from people who helped him. He may be dead, according to a Seattle Times report. The Times' photographer is Twittering from the scene as robots advance on the house. More background on some of the suspect's Arkansas past in this Seattle story, plus plenty of pungent reader comments about the 2000 commutation decision by Gov. Mike Huckabee.)
Is Maurice Clemmons, who received commutation in 2000 from Gov. Mike Huckabee on a lengthy robbery sentence, the Willie Horton of Huckabee's future presidential campaigns?
A Kansas City Star editorial already raises the point. KC, of course, is where another commutation mistake of Mike Huckabee was punctuated by murder -- by his favorite rapist Wayne Dumond.
News reporting is also picking up extensively on Huckabee's clemency controversies and his lavish use of the power over the objections of prosecutors.
Huckabee issued a statement on the slayings last night after his name surfaced in stories about the man wanted for questioning in the slayings of four Washington police officers. In part:
Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State. He was recommended for and received a commutation of his original sentence from 1990, making him parole eligible and was paroled by the parole board once they determined he met the conditions at that time.
Yes, and the first failure would be Huckabee's commutation of a thug who might still be in prison otherwise. Was it really Clemmons' tender age at conviction that explains the 2000 commutation? He was a multiple offender by then. Or were there other influential factors -- character witnesses, perhaps -- in the governor's decision? And then what about the quick parole on a succeeding offense? Did Huckabee-appointed parole board members have factors beyond a belief in the young man's rehabilitation that contributed to another early release decision? I suspect reporting in the days ahead will ask those questions anew.