By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
Once again, one of Mike Huckabee's seemingly faith-based maneuvers has gotten him in big trouble with his party's base. First it was his stance on immigration, when he called for children of illegal immigrants to be able to get government aid for college. Now there's evidence that Huckabee's decision to commute the sentence of suspected cop killer Maurice Clemmons as governor of Arkansas was motivated, at least partly, by religious beliefs. Talking Points Memo notes that Clemmons stressed his faith in a 2000 letter to Huckabee:
Clemmons said he came from "a very good Christian family" and "was raised much better than my actions speak (I'm still ashamed to this day for the shame my stupid involvement in these crimes brought to my family name.)," he wrote.
"Where once stood a young (16) year old misguided fool, who's (sic) own life he was unable to rule. Now stands a 27 year old man, who has learned through 'the school of hard knocks' to appreciate and respect the rights of others. And who has in the midst of the harsh reality of prison life developed the necessary skills to stand along (sic) and not follow a multitude of do evil, as I did as a 16 year old child."
Clemmons added that his mother had recently died without seeing him turn his life around and that he prayed Huckabee would show compassion by releasing him.
At Salon, meanwhile, Joe Conason chalks Huckabee's long list of commutations to the influence of fellow pastors (Huckabee is a Baptist minister) who had ministered to the convicts:
The real engine behind [convicted Arkansas rapist Wayne] Dumond's release, however, was a Baptist minister and ultra-conservative ideologue named Jay Cole, who also happened to be a friend of Huckabee. Cole would tell the governor about his visits with the supposedly innocent Dumond, when the minister and the prisoner would read the Bible and pray together.
Perhaps the worst instance of that same syndrome, chronicled in detail by Arkansas journalists, concerned an Air Force sergeant named Glen Green, who was sentenced to prison for life after confessing that he had raped and killed a teenage girl. After beating the woman with nunchucks, he violated her almost lifeless body, ran over her with his car and buried her in a swamp. But yet another preacher friend of Huckabee's named Rev. Johnny Jackson somehow persuaded the governor that this incredibly brutal killing had been an "accident"—and that Green had repented, come to Jesus and therefore should be freed.
Two years ago, I noted that Huckabee knew almost nothing about the Green case beyond what his preacher pal had told him. He consulted neither the prosecutor nor the victim's family, and overruled the dissent of his own parole board. After he announced that Green would be released, the furious public reaction forced him to reverse the decision. Yet he continued to release murderers and other violent criminals despite angry dissent from local prosecutors.
I've yet to see Huckabee himself weigh in about any role that his faith might have played in his zeal to commute. Let me know if you've see Huckabee confirming or denying faith's influence on that score.