The Parkland Washington Murderous Executions: Mike Huckabee and Rehabilitation Experiments

–Richard E. Vatz

In a genuinely horrific execution-style murder, four Tacoma, Washington police officers — Tina Griswold, Mark Renninger, Greg Richards and Ronald Owens –were cowardly murdered while completing paperwork on laptop computers in a coffee shop.

The suspected murderer was a man who had had his sentence “commuted,” which made him parole-eligible, 20 years ago by then-Arkansas-Gov. Mike Huckabee.

A conservative Democrat e-mailed me today wondering if conservatives and/or Republicans would shy away from condemning Huckabee for his commuting the sentence of the lead “person of interest” in the murders of four police officers. My correspondent claimed he had some evidence that Fox was avoiding the story, which, if true, would surely (in my view) not be the case for long. If it were, it would be unforgivable.

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A revealing, but certainly not excusing, fact for Huckabee’s culpability in this matter, is the fact that as the Seattle Times reports, “…Clemmons had been in jail for the past several months on a child-rape charge that carries a possible life sentence. He was released from custody one week ago, even though he was staring at eight felony charges in all.” The sympathy and empathy for dastardly criminals never ceases, and it crosses party lines.

According to the Associated Press, Maurice Clemmons was convicted in 1989 of aggravated robbery and was paroled in 2000 by then-Gov. Huckabee from Clemmons’ 95-year prison sentence, largely because the perpetrator was so young. Subsequently, Clemmons has manifested consistent felonious, violent behavior (Huckabee would probably say Clemmons “had a problem with violence,” the type of phrase typically used to imply that violence controls people rather than people choose to be violent). Huckabee, the Associated Press account goes on, has a history of clemencies and commutations.

The Washington Post in a poll published today asked of those who are “leaned Republicans” (don’t ask; such polls are never precisely meaningful) found that Gov. Huckabee was 2nd to resigned Gov. Sarah Palin in answer to the question, “If the 2012 Republican presidential primary or caucus in your state were being held today, for whom would you vote?” In a USA Today/Gallup Poll several weeks ago Huckabee was among the public the favorite (at least by a thin margin) Republican for president for a 2012 run.

Did I say sympathy and empathy for violent felons crosses party lines? You bet.

Much of the public’s memory regarding ex-Gov. Michael Dukakis’s furlough program in Massachusetts was that unfair racial attacks were made regarding a released convicted murderer to benefit then Vice-President George Herbert Walker Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign against Dukakis. I don’t know the motives of political advertisers – maybe they were partially racial; maybe they weren’t. More relevant is that Gov. Dukakis supported furloughs for first-degree murderers to effect – what else? – rehabilitation. It’s always important to appeal to the better side of vicious murderers and rapists. Scores of convicted convicts over time escaped after being furloughed.

Gov. Dukakis had superintended the Massachusetts furlough program (not begun under him) that provided a 1986 weekend pass for incarcerated (with no possibility of parole) violent murderer Willie Horton, providing him an opportunity to savagely rape and viciously assault respectively a woman and her fiancé.

Dukakis thought rehabilitation was a more important goal of incarceration than incapacitation and deterrence. What if catastrophe occurs? It’s the price of humanistic concerns – and it’s unlikely to affect his family.

This writer is not against rehabilitation; I just think that anyone who subordinates incapacitation and deterrence to rehabilitation – and this applies to those who oppose capital punishment to the point of ignoring such capital miscreants who would perpetrate violence in or from prison — is, to put it too kindly, too empathetic with the most evil and threatening members of our society to hold high political office.

If conservative media don’t cover this connection sufficiently, it is inexcusable.

–Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

**Addendum, Dec 1, 2009, 7:50 a.m.: As reported in USA Today, “Clemmons was shot and killed early Tuesday in a Seattle neighborhood.”

This increases the difficulty of effecting rehabilitation.

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