His clemency of Maurice Clemmons, who is believed to have shot and killed four police officers, should not be an issue. Clemons was sent to jail at 16, sentenced for more than 100 years for burglary and robbery. Huckabee commuted his sentence, and made him eligible for parole. A parole board evaluated the circumstances of the case and paroled him.
In a criminal justice system as vast and over-reaching as ours, it can be nearly impossible to determine who will commit crimes again and who will not. Obviously certain factors play a role in both estimating the probability of reoffense and in determining who should serve longer sentences — the violence involved in the underlying crime, the convicted person’s ties with criminal activity outside of prison, the person’s behavior while inside — but it’s not a perfect calculus. Forcing someone to serve a full prison term also doesn’t guarantee that they will never reoffend.
Huckabee’s decision to commute Clemmons’ sentence was not what killed those police officers. Governors should be able to check an over-zealous justice system in situations like this one, where a minor was sentenced to a century behind bars for an offense that, as far as I can tell, included no physical harm to other people. It turns out that Clemmons was actually a horrible man, and I’m not trying to downplay his evil actions after prison. But it’s important to keep in mind that this series of events is the exception rather than the rule. And as much as I love to criticize Huckabee, this one isn’t on his shoulders.
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