I’ve just learned the man being sought in connection with gunning down four Lakewood, Washington, police officers is an ex-convict who was freed by then Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
Maurice Clemmons, the 37-year-old Tacoma man being sought for questioning in the killing this morning of four Lakewood police officers, has a long criminal record punctuated by violence, erratic behavior and concerns about his mental health.
Nine years ago, then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee granted clemency to Clemmons, commuting his lengthy prison sentence over the protests of prosecutors.
Several people have noted that Clemmons didn’t have a record of homicides; his convictions were for burglaries and aggravated assaults. Even so, why would a governor go out of his way to give clemency to a convict over the protests of prosecutors? (I have a theory, which I’ll get to in a minute.)
Those with long memories will remember that this is not the first Huckabee commutation with a bad ending. The case of Wayne Dumond got a good deal of attention in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Wayne Dumond was a convicted serial rapist whom Huckabee arranged to be released. After his release, Dumond raped and murdered at least one other woman and possibly others.
I wrote about Dumond and another Arkansas convict, Frankie Parker, almost two years ago in “A Tale of Two Prisoners.” For reasons explained in the earlier post, Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, was pressured by the Christian Right into pardoning Dumond.
But the Christian Right kept silence on Frankie Parker, who was executed in 1996 over the objections of Mother Theresa and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In fact, Governor Huckabee was so keen to execute Frankie Parker that he intervened to move the execution date up by six weeks so that Parker could be executed sooner. He was so keen to execute Parker that moving up the execution date was Huckabee’s first official proclamation as Governor of Arkansas. Clearly, this was an itch that Huckabee was rarin’ to scratch.
It is true that Parker was convicted of committing two murders while under the influence of drugs. He admitted he had done this. He wasn’t asking for a pardon; just life.
What made Frankie Parker’s life so untenable? In prison, he had acquired a copy of the Dhammapada, which inspired him to convert to Buddhism. He corresponded with a Zen priest and also worked with a Little Rock Buddhist group to learn the practice. He became a spiritual leader within the prison. A Buddhist spiritual leader. Can’t have that.
So if people are wondering why Mike Huckabee took it upon himself to grant clemency to Maurice Clemmons, look for a religious angle. I don’t know that there is one, but I’ll be surprised if there isn’t.