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December 5, 2007

Apparently now's the time to talk about Huckabee's "Willie Horton"

Way back in March in this post, I highlighted the sentencing story within this fascinating Salon piece discussing the prospects of Republican candidate Mike Huckabee.  That story discussed Huckabee's "willie Horton" problem in the form of Wayne Dumond, a rapist paroled in Arkansas when Huckabee was governor who murdered a woman after being released.   Perhaps because Huckabee continues to rise in the polls, this story is now garnering new nation attention.  Byron York explains in this new item from the National Review Online:

In August, I interviewed former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee about the case of Wayne Dumond, the convicted rapist who was freed under Huckabee’s administration, only to rape and kill a woman in neighboring Missouri. The crime attracted enormous attention in Arkansas, but at the time of our interview, it had not made its way into much coverage of Huckabee’s presidential bid. “If [Huckabee] continues to rise in the polls,” I wrote, “it’s likely he’ll be talking about it a lot more.”

Now Huckabee is rising in the polls, and sure enough, the Dumond case is attracting more attention. This morning, ABC News ran a report featuring the mother of the woman Dumond murdered, who blames Huckabee for her daughter’s death and vows to do everything she can to stop his campaign. “I can’t imagine anybody wanting somebody like that running the country,” the woman told ABC.

The story seems to be developing from many angles, and here's additional coverage from Murray Waas at The Huffington PostThis item at Monsters and Critics.com simply asks "Is Wayne Dumond Huckabee's Willie Horton?"

December 5, 2007 at 08:00 AM | Permalink

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Comments

From my understanding, Huckabee thought the guy was wronfully convicted. That was an honest mistake. I hope this incident doesn't stop him from being more lenient if he is elected.

Posted by: EJ | Dec 5, 2007 9:13:12 AM

EJ,

"From my understanding, Huckabee thought the guy was wronfully convicted. That was an honest mistake."

As are more than one of these "wrongful conviction" stories -- or do you really think this is the only time something like this has happened?

And do you think one lesson from this might be that people acting long after the fact, as Huckabee did, might be better advised to give a greater degree of deference to the jury, which heard the evidence in detail and in person?

"I hope this incident doesn't stop him from being more lenient if he is elected."

Who paid the real price for Huckabee's "honest mistake?" Huckabee? Or the lady dispatched by the killer Huckabee freed while governor?

To me, it's simply a politician's arrogance, preening to the press about what a good Christian he is. A good Christian might well have a forgiving attitude, but, as an office holder, he does not carelessly disregard the secular legal judgment of those who had more evidence than he did, and he does not force others to bear the costs of his errors.

Bill

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 5, 2007 10:07:24 AM

What's your point Bill? That we should never free anybody after a jury says he's guilty? Or are you just grandstanding?

This was a horrible mistake. Mistakes happen. But is this any more a tragedy than when an innocent person is left to rot for the rest of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit? Or should we not be as bothered by a jury's "honest mistake"?

We've come a long way from the old maxim that it's better to let ten guilty go free than to imprison one innocent. I prefer the old way, and so I’d prefer that decision makers err on the side of making sure innocent people aren’t locked away, even if the occasional mistake is made.

Posted by: | Dec 5, 2007 11:26:07 AM

The Huffington Post article is probably the most powerful I've ever read in favor of federalist's and Kent's societal point of view. My gut reaction was, "Is federalist right after all?"

The article, however, was designed to illicit that reaction, so it will take some thought and a second reading to curb that emotional reaction and determine if there are other equally plausible interpretations.

Posted by: George | Dec 5, 2007 12:02:33 PM

Huckabee clearly screwed up here, and doesn't have the testicular fortitude to own up to it. Those letters are damning. He's not as bad as Dukakis, but he's up there.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 5, 2007 2:20:04 PM

"What's your point Bill?"

To try to get answers to the questions I asked.

"That we should never free anybody after a jury says he's guilty?"

Free them after they've served their sentence. If Huckabee had done that, an innocent person would be alive today.

"Or are you just grandstanding?"

One reason I seldom answer you is this kind of ad hominem stuff. Most posters do without it. Care to join them?

"This was a horrible mistake. Mistakes happen."

I'll try to remember this elastically forgiving "mistakes happen" stance when the mistake is made by a policeman. Will there be something wrong with that?

"But is this any more a tragedy than when an innocent person is left to rot for the rest of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit?"

Instead of following the Lawyers Guild script, try going down to the local federal courthouse for a week or so and see for yourself how many "innocents" are on trial there, much less how many "innocents" get convicted, and still less get sent to jail for life (or for anything).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 5, 2007 2:51:39 PM

I take what I said back. Huckabee is every bit as bad as Dukakis. His clemency grants are repulsive. Dressing up his threats to public safety as the Christian thing to do is arrogant.

Huckabee goes nowhere with this record.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 5, 2007 5:27:14 PM

federalist,

I doubt he's as bad as Dukakis, but his fancy dance on this question, with a goodly dose of piety thrown in, is none too appetizing.

Still, not to worry -- he wasn't going to get the nomination anyway.

Bill

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 5, 2007 6:13:00 PM

Has anyone done a review of how many parolees Huckabee was involved in releasing who didn't commit serious crimes while on release? This whole thing is a joke. You want to get rid of parole, and have everyone serve every day of their sentence inside, fine. Pony up the cash for the prison beds and staff.

But if you're going to have a parole system, then you have to be willing to live with the fact that some people, after they get paroled, will commit crimes. Don't like that? Get rid of all parole. It's the only way to guarentee that nothing like this will ever happen.

Frankly, the fact that this guy committed crimes after he was paroled doesn't mean that the decision to parole him was a bad one. The decision was what it was, based on the information the decision-makers had at the time.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 5, 2007 9:05:42 PM

Anon,

The decision by Governor Huckabee and his parole board resulted in the death of an innocent person. Your response is that this doesn't mean the decision was necessarily a bad one, because "the decision was what it was, based on the information the decision-makers had at the time."

If it were proven that an innocent person had been subjected to capital punishment based on seemingly persuasive but erroneous information, would you take an equally forgiving attitude, on the theory that "the decision was what it was, based on the information the decision-makers had at the time?"

Bill

P.S. I don't think it will do to say that, well, we don't need capital punishment. We don't need parole either, and in fact the federal government abolished it more than 20 years ago in the Sentencing Reform Act.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 5, 2007 11:37:12 PM

"If it were proven that an innocent person had been subjected to capital punishment based on seemingly persuasive but erroneous information, would you take an equally forgiving attitude, on the theory that "the decision was what it was, based on the information the decision-makers had at the time?"

Bill, not that I think one scenario has anything to do with the other, but actually, yes, that would be my response. Which is exactly why the unreversible, uncorrectable abomination that is state-carried-out murder should be abolished. People have to make decision, and people are human, and sometimes the results of decisions don't turn out the way the decision-makers think they will.

Parole is correctable - if someone gets out on parole who shouldn't have, you can put them back in. State murder is not correctable - if someone is killed by a state employee who shouldn't have been killed, nothing can be done.

But this is all off the topic, which is that denouncing a politician he saw to one parole that didn't work out - without looking at his other parolees for comparison - is crap.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 6, 2007 12:19:50 AM

Anon - your fix for erroneously paroling someone is just to put them back into prison. That fix ignores the fact that he may commit an act that is an "unreversible, uncorrectable abomination," your justification for abolishing the DP. Under your logic, shouldn't both parole and the DP be abolished because of the uncorrectable errors that could result?

Posted by: JustClerk | Dec 6, 2007 8:13:03 AM

Anon,

1. Contrary to your argument, the handing down of an erroneous death sentence can be corrected. There is now an average interval of 11 years between the handing down of a death sentence and its being carried out. In that time, there is one review after the next, in state and federal court. It is far from unheard of for that review to result in a lower sentence.

Of course it is true that, once a death sentence is carried out (if and when affirmed after so many years of review), it's irreversable. But precisely the same is true of a murder committed by a person erroneously paroled. Thus your attempt to draw a reversability distinction between the two fails.

2. You write: "Parole is correctable - if someone gets out on parole who shouldn't have, you can put them back in. State murder is not correctable - if someone is killed by a state employee who shouldn't have been killed, nothing can be done."

This is a corollary of the error I noted. The mistake is obscured in your formulation here -- if someone gets paroled "who shouldn't have," we can return him to jail. But, in the Huckabee instance we're talking about, the REASON we know the inmate "shouldn't have been" paroled is that he thereafter committed murder. Getting the parole revoked at that point does not reverse the death of the parolee's victim.

3. I frequently see the death penalty referred to in the way you have, i.e., as state-carried-out murder.

Let's put to one side for the moment the overpowering moral difference between (1) blowing the clerk's head off in the 7-11 so you can clean out the cash register, and (2) giving a lethal injection to, say, Timothy McVeigh after affording him a million dollar defense and years of due process (and of course in response to the mass murder he spent months planning, a motive most people would view as quite different from the motive to make a quick buck with the proceeds of the cash register heist).

Beyond the moral difference is also a legal difference. The death penalty is imposed by a jury and carried out at the direction of a court order. Since "murder" is the UNLAWFUL taking of a human life, the death penalty doesn't qualify.

Bill

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 6, 2007 8:47:48 AM

Dumond's penchant for violence and rape was well-documented, even putting aside the assault on Clinton's cousin. He testified that he repeatedly struck a man in the head with a hammer (the man died). This guy also assaulted a girl in Washington state and was accused of raping others. He NEVER should have been paroled. So Huckabee's lame response that no one could have foreseen what Dumond would do is an out and out lie (funny how Huckabee's Christian ethics, which apparently make him comfortable with foisting dangerous criminals on society, don't make him be completely forthright with voters).

Look, even I don't have a categorical view on not paroling murderers, although it would be extremely rare. But this is not an isolated incident with Huckabee. He has released far too many violent criminals. And he points to the Christian ethic of forgiveness in doing so. Well, it's easy to be magnanimous when someone else has to pay the price.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 6, 2007 9:37:30 AM

federalist,

"[I]t's easy to be magnanimous when someone else has to pay the price."

This should be written in bold letters and put in front of every advocate for so-called "enlightened" and "compassionate" sentencing.

Bill

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 6, 2007 10:06:32 AM

Wow, someone in here actually agrees with me. That doesnt happen too often.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 6, 2007 10:09:28 AM

federalist,

There are about as many conservatives posting here as there were at Stanford Law School when I was there in the Seventies.

Are you a member of the Federalist Society, by any chance? I am.

Bill

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 6, 2007 12:05:01 PM

Viewed strictly from a crime and punishment point of view, I don't think Huckabee is getting a fair shake. There is plenty of blame to go around.

1. We could blame first of all the Clinton conspiracy theorists who helped get his sentenced commuted to parole-eligible in the first place.

2. We could blame the parole board for caving into pressure if it was pressured by Huckabee.

3. We could "blame the victim" of the violent rape for not pressing charges and following through. A violent rape at knife point with a daughter present is a fair indication of a propensity for violence (and I doubt the daughter actually slept through it).

4. We could blame the authorities for convincing said victim he would not get out.

5. We could blame the cops who get false confessions for not making his unsigned confession believable.

5. We could blame the prosecutors of the first murder for granting him immunity for testimony when he flipped. Given his propensity to murder, it is too possible the other two accused were telling the truth when they said he is the one who delivered the fatal blow. Why is the first to flip assumed to be telling the truth?

6. High-speed chase deaths result in the loss of far more innocent lives than parolees. Why not the same outrage for the same reasons?

The plain truth is that we could shred the Bill of Rights and life would still be tragic. Our Founders were well aware of what crimes people were capable of and they passed the Bill of Rights anyway, but their goal was a "more perfect union," not perfection. Life will never be free of tragedy. Never.

Posted by: George | Dec 6, 2007 12:05:09 PM

How interesting - Huckabee works to release this guy in reaction to right wing radio hosts and columists who thought that everything related to Bill Clinton involves some sort of massive conspiracy - and then the tragic results of that thinking (which is the release of someone for whom life without the possibility of parole sounded like a reasonable sentence) may well help put Hillary Clinton in the White House.

I wonder when the Republicans are going to stop listening to the vast right wing conspiracy against Clinton so much?

Posted by: Zack | Dec 6, 2007 12:20:25 PM

to clarify the tragic result was the death of an innocent person due to someone being released for whom life without parole appeared appropriate.

Posted by: Zack | Dec 6, 2007 12:22:16 PM

Bill Otis wrote: "1. Contrary to your argument, the handing down of an erroneous death sentence can be corrected."

That wasn't my "argument" and you know it, you dishonest f___.

"Of course it is true that, once a death sentence is carried out (if and when affirmed after so many years of review), it's irreversable."

Now THERE you go!

"But precisely the same is true of a murder committed by a person erroneously paroled. Thus your attempt to draw a reversability distinction between the two fails."

You're wrong. There may be dire CONSEQUENCES of a bad decision to parole the wrong person (i.e. someone is killed), but the DECISION to parole the person can be reversed. The decision to execute the wrong person, as you admit, can never be reversed.

"But, in the Huckabee instance we're talking about, the REASON we know the inmate "shouldn't have been" paroled is that he thereafter committed murder."

This just gets back to my point. The fact that the parolee killed someone does not ipso facto make the decision to parole him somehow "wrong." Just as the ends don't justify the means, the [bad] ends don't corrupt [otherwise reasonable] means. Just like the decision to grant bail to someone who commits a crime while out on bail doesn't make the bail decision "wrong." No one could ever make any decisions if the after-the-fact events ALWAYS controlled the rightness or wrongness of the decision.

"Let's put to one side for the moment the overpowering moral difference between [a traditional criminal murder and an execution]."

Whether or not there is any moral difference between your two examples, let alone an overpowering one, is simply a matter of opinion. In yours there is. In mine there isn't. I'm a big enough person to admit that neither one of us is "right."

"Beyond the moral difference is also a legal difference. The death penalty is imposed by a jury and carried out at the direction of a court order. Since "murder" is the UNLAWFUL taking of a human life, the death penalty doesn't qualify."

That just depends on how you define murder. And how you define "lawful." And who gets to make the definitions.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 6, 2007 11:17:04 PM

Anon,

You wrote, "The decision to execute the wrong person, as you admit, can never be reversed."

Not only did I not "admit" it, I said the opposite, right here (emphasis added): "There is now an average interval of 11 years between the handing down of a death sentence and its being carried out. In that time, there is one review after the next, in state and federal court. IT IS FAR FROM UNHEARD OF FOR THAT REVIEW TO RESULT IN A LOWER SENTENCE."

Now I suppose I could use your language and say you're a "dishonest f_____," but I'll leave that sort of thing where I found it.

And I will leave to any fair-minded reader your claim that it's nothing more than a matter of opinion whether there exists a moral difference between (1) blowing the clerk's head off in the 7-11 so you can clean out the cash register, and (2) giving a lethal injection to, say, Timothy McVeigh after affording him a million dollar defense and years of due process (and of course in response to the mass murder he spent months planning).

You follow up on your view that believing there is a moral difference between these things is merely a matter of opinion by saying, "I'm a big enough person to admit that neither one of us is 'right.'"

Yikes. Can you really be unaware that the ability to form moral judgments is one of the principal things that defines human beings? On even minor reflection, it turns out that you're congratulating yourself for being "big enough" to have the moral discrimination of a rock.

Although you run for the cover of non-judgmentalism when cornered in an untenable argument, you've shown plenty of judgmentalism elsewhere. Are you non-judgmental about death penalty proponents? About George Bush? Don Rumsfeld?

Sure you are!

But not to worry. Non-judgmentalism is a sometime game, not just for you but for everyone else who pretends to believe it.


Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 7, 2007 12:28:13 AM

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