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Times on Huckabee



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A long profile worth reading here. On the clemency stuff, it is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there was something conscientious and admirable about Huckabee’s approach: 

Driven by a religious belief in redemption and questions about the state’s legal system, Mr. Huckabee paid close attention to clemency petitions, former aides said.
He insisted on reviewing every single application, though they came in by the hundreds most months.“He would take these files home with him to the governor’s mansion,” recalled Rex Nelson, Mr. Huckabee’s communications director for nine years. “He would read them, study them. He took it very seriously, the political consequences be damned.” …

But it also reflected Mr. Huckabee’s broader concerns about the criminal justice system in Arkansas, one of the few states where juries rather than judges impose sentences, which defense lawyers say can produce arbitrary results.

Dana Reece, another defense lawyer, told of one client who received a life sentence for selling six grams of crack cocaine. “He’d still be in prison today if it weren’t for Governor Huckabee,” Ms. Reece said. How many politicians, she asked, would stick their necks out for a crack dealer?

“This was a political hot potato, and he knew it,” Mr. Cox said of his former boss. “But he had a conviction that people could better themselves, and he was open-minded to the idea that a poor black man from east Arkansas convicted by an all-white jury just may have been a victim of injustice.”
 

On the other hand, there was something arrogant and ill-considered:

Many Arkansans faulted him, however, for refusing to give public explanations for pardons and sentence commutations, and for responding harshly to those who criticized his choices.

 “He just doesn’t want to talk to victims’ families,” Elaine Colclasure, co-leader of the Central Arkansas chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, a victims’ advocacy group, said in an interview last week. “He doesn’t want anyone questioning anything he does. And when you do, he bristles. His compassion is for the murderer and any criminal who says he has found Jesus.”

Dee McManus Engle, another member of the group, recalled accompanying a murder victim’s widow to a scheduled meeting at the governor’s office. “We stayed there half the day trying to talk with Huckabee,” Ms. Engle said, adding, “It was the most important thing in her life, and she was in tears because she could not get to the governor.”

Former aides said that while Mr. Huckabee rarely met with victims or their families, he was never dismissive of their concerns. “I can tell you we listened to victims,” Mr. Cox said. “I mean, it was a no-win situation. The victims, if you granted clemency, it didn’t matter how long you listened to them. It just tore them up.”…

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette found that nearly one in 10 who received clemency from Governor Huckabee were later sentenced to prison. 

Over time, he did less of them:

Mr. Huckabee eventually did bend, if slightly, to criticism and scrutiny. He proved less willing to grant clemency in his second term, especially for violent offenses. 

One last thing: I continue to find it stunning that any public official could accept more than $100,000 in gifts in one year. Seems extraordinary…



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