To rebut critics of the Dumond fiasco and prove he is tough on crime, Huckabee notes that he signed off on 16 executions as governor. But he also used his authority to grant clemency to others found guilty of equally heinous crimes. Indeed, he granted more commutations and pardons than any governor in the previous 40 years. While many of those decisions were surely wise and just, especially when they meant reducing excessive penalties under the drug laws, some of his pardons have raised considerable controversy in Arkansas.
Influenced by his fellow pastors, as well as by friends and relatives of inmates, Huckabee appears to have practiced what might be called "Christian cronyism."
The worst example of that syndrome, chronicled in detail by the crusading journalists at Arkansas' The Leader newspaper, concerned a killer named Glen Green, sentenced to prison for life after confessing to the savage rape and murder of a teenage girl.
An Air Force sergeant, Green had bludgeoned the woman with nunchucks, violated her almost lifeless body, run over her with his car and dumped her in a bayou. A preacher friend of Huckabee's convinced him that the girl's murder had been an "accident" and that the convict had repented, come to Jesus and therefore should be freed.
Huckabee seems to have known very little about the horrifying case beyond what his preacher pal told him. He didn't bother to seek the opinions of the prosecutor or the victim's family, and he ignored the dissent of his own parole board. But after the governor announced that Green would be released, a furious public eventually forced him to reverse his decision. Still, he insisted on releasing a number of murderers and other violent criminals despite protests from prosecutors.
Aside from the manifest stupidity of releasing Green, Arkansas citizen groups and newspapers criticized the secrecy of Huckabee's deliberations. He even refused to disclose his reasons for granting clemencies, supposedly because he didn't want prisoners to figure out how to win his sympathy.
But as The Leader sardonically observed, "Huckabee may not have realized it, but every prisoner knew how to get on the governor's good side. Call it Huckabee's religion test. It's a sure ticket to freedom: Tell him you've found religion." Or get a friendly pastor to tell him.
Other prisoners likewise seemed to have a special claim on Huckabee's attention, including those who labored as trusty servants at the Governor's Mansion, relatives of Huckabee's friends and employees and, in at least one case, a drunk driver who happened to be a wealthy real estate developer. (In 2003, he began serving a six-year sentence for repeated drunk driving offenses, but Huckabee let the man go after about six months. In 2006, he nearly killed a police officer in yet another drunk driving incident.)
Mercy is a wonderful quality, whether religious or secular. What seems far less wonderful is the dispensation of political favors disguized as religiosity -- and that is exactly what the nation's Founders meant to forbid.
© Creators Syndicate
Comments? Send a letter to the editor.
Albion Monitor December
13, 2007 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
All Rights Reserved.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.