Follow us:

Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

December 18, 2013 at 6:31 AM

Mike Huckabee’s Maurice Clemmons problem

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

If former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is going to run for president in 2016, his campaign is going to have to run through the Forza
coffee shop in Parkland, Wash. That’s where one of Huckabee’s many parolees, Maurice Clemmons, assassinated four Lakewood police officers in 2009, depriving nine children of a parent and setting a national perception that Huckabee abused his powers of clemency.

Huckabee told The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin (the other Jonathan Martin) that he views a 2016 presidential bid as “a real opportunity for me.” The Washington Post quickly called Huckabee “a long shot” because he is a disinterested fundraiser who has credibility problems with the GOP’s fiscal conservatives.

He’s had those problems for a while, but still came in first in the Iowa caucuses in 2008. But back then he didn’t have a Maurice Clemmons problem. 

As anyone living here in 2009 will recall, Huckabee became a national story after the officers’ deaths because he freed Clemmons from a 108-year sentence in 2000. Huckabee granted more pardons and commutations – 1,033 – than his three predecessors (including Bill Clinton) combined. Clemmons wasn’t Other Side covereven his most controversial pardon.

As part of a book on the Maurice Clemmons case I co-wrote with Seattle Times reporter Ken Armstrong, I spent a week in Little Rock peeling back Huckabee’s handling of the case. As we detailed in “The Other Side of Mercy: A Killer’s Journey Across the American Divide,” Huckabee viewed clemency as a means to right the wrongs of Arkansas’ racial history. A fine goal, but he failed use it wisely. He did not do the basics with Clemmons – such as contacting the prosecuting attorney for comment – or assuring that Clemmons’ release plan – to move to Seattle – was solid, or even factual (it was neither).

In fact, it doesn’t appear Huckabee even checked out Clemmons’ prison file, which was thick with acts of violence and absent indications of rehabilitation. Here’s how we described it in the book:

In years to come Huckabee would be asked how much he knew about Clemmons’ prison history while weighing his request. Huckabee would tell CNN: “I read the entire file … It was a file this thick … I looked at the file, every bit of it.”

Every bit of it? That seems unlikely. By 2000, Clemmons’ prison file already exceeded a thousand pages. But if Huckabee did read every bit of it, he would have seen a record—dated October 21, 1999—that boiled Clemmons’ stay in prison down to his damning score sheet:

Disciplinaries: Twenty-nine times
Achievements: None

If Huckabee is serious, he’ll have to answer his Maurice Clemmons problem.



No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►