Josh Marshall at TPM:
You may have heard that four police officers were murdered in what under different circumstances would look like a mob assassination in Washington state coffeehouse this morning.
The man local police are seeking for questioning is Maurice Clemmons, 37, a man with a lifetime history of violence, burglary, aggravated robbery, theft and rape. Clemmons was serving what was essentially a life sentence in Arkansas before having his sentence commuted by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“This is the day I’ve been dreading for a long time,” Pulaski County prosecutor Larry Jegley told the Seattle Times when told Clemmons was a suspect in the quadruple murder.
As far as I can tell, until today, Clemmons had never been accused of, let alone indicted for or convicted of a homicide. The record is rather one of an endless string of aggravated robberies, assaults and similar crimes.
Daniel Foster at National Review:
The clemency was granted in part because Clemmons was just seventeen at the time of his conviction. But within months of being released from an Arkansas jail, Clemmons was rearrested for parole violation. Three years later, he was released again, after an apparent procedural mistake led prosecutors to drop further charges that would have kept him incarcerated.
In Washington, Clemmons continued to run afoul of the law. At the time of the police killings, he was out on $30,000 bail on a charge of second-degree rape of a child.
The man being sought by police was granted clemency by former GOP Arkansas Mike Huckabee despite his violent history and vehement protestations from prosecutors and victims’ family members.
He was most recently in jail for alleged second-degree rape of a child.
This isn’t Huckabee’s first Horton moment, as I’ll remind you in a moment.
This disaster is just one of Huckabee’s ill-considered clemency legacies.
Remember Wayne Dumond?
Again, via the Arkansas Times circa 2005 — a closer look at how Huckabee tried to evade responsibility for setting a convicted rapist free…only to rape again
But based on the few facts I have available, this looks like a reasonable use of clemency authority:
In 1990, Clemmons, then 18, was sentenced in Arkansas to 60 years in prison for burglary and theft of property, according to a news account. Newspaper stories describe a series of disturbing incidents involving Clemmons while he was being tried in Arkansas on various charges. [...]
When Clemmons received the 60-year sentence, he was already serving 48 years on five felony convictions and facing up to 95 more years on charges of robbery, theft of property and possessing a handgun on school property. Records from Clemmons’ sentencing described him as 5-foot-7 and 108 pounds. The crimes were committed when he was 17.
60 years for burglary and theft for an eighteen year-old seems incredibly excessive. In this case, of course, you can’t help but wish he were in fact still in prison. But it’s hard to see what about a record of involvement in burglaries would make you think this was a guy at risk of doing something like this.
Given Huckabee’s gruesome history on related matters, it’s tempting to say that he deserves any demagoguery he’s on the receiving end of because of this. But it would be wrong. As Matt says, on its face there’s nothing unreasonable about granting clemency to a someone given 6-0 years for burglaries committed when he was 17. Evidently, if you grant parole and clemency (or, for that matter, give out finite sentences) to significant numbers of people some percentage will commit more crimes, but individual cases can’t in themselves justify more draconian policies, and also don’t mean that Huckabee’s judgment at the time was wrong. Putting pressure on the the parole board to release a rapist because some wingers developed some quarter-witted Clinton conspiracy theories, on the other hand…
Someone used the word Hucked-up on Twitter the other day. I remember commenting at the time. If anything is “Hucked-up,” this is. Huckabee may not be the only individual guilty here and neither is Arkansas the only state. But why we keep returning this kind of scum to the street is a crime all by itself. They say the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact. Well, neither should be trumped up Constitutional Rights. Degenerates like Maurice Clemmons should be shot in the head and left for dead whenever they get caught.
The senseless and savage execution of police officers in Washington State has saddened the nation, and early reports indicate that a person of interest is a repeat offender who once lived in Arkansas and was wanted on outstanding warrants here and in Washington State. The murder of any individual is a profound tragedy, but the murder of a police officer is the worst of all murders in that it is an assault on every citizen and the laws we live within.
Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State. He was recommended for and received a commutation of his original sentence from 1990, this commutation made him parole eligible and he was then paroled by the parole board once they determined he met the conditions at that time. He was arrested later for parole violation and taken back to prison to serve his full term, but prosecutors dropped the charges that would have held him. It appears that he has continued to have a string of criminal and psychotic behavior but was not kept incarcerated by either state. This is a horrible and tragic event and if found and convicted the offender should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Our thoughts and prayers are and should be with the families of those honorable, brave, and heroic police officers.
UPDATE: Heather MacDonald at Secular Right
Joe Carter at First Things
UPDATE #2: Instapundit on Coates
UPDATE #3: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads
UPDATE #4: Mara Gay at The Atlantic
UPDATE #5: Radley Balko at Reason