Huckabee Fights Against Parole Case Claims

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who in the past few weeks has gone from long shot to leading some polls in Iowa, today fought back against charges he acted improperly in the case of Wayne DuMond, a convicted rapist who was paroled during Huckabee's time as governor of Arkansas.

In an interview today on CBS News' The Early Show, Huckabee denied wrongdoing and deflected blame for the case to his predecessors Jim Guy Tucker and Bill Clinton.

"It was Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker who actually commuted Mr. DuMond's sentence, making him parole eligible. What I actually did was I denied his second commutation request, denied three others. He was released because he was parole eligible. And in Arkansas law, governors can neither initiate parole, nor can they stop a parole," Huckabee told Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.

The mother of a woman murdered by DuMond after he was paroled spoke out against the former governor on Wednesday's Early Show.

Lois Davidson, whose daughter Carol Sue Shields was murdered said that Huckabee's involvement in the case suggests poor judgment.

"I don't think he did enough background research on Wayne DuMond's life," she said. "And if he didn't do that kind of research, I don't think he's gonna be good for the country."

Huckabee responded to the mother on Thursday.

"This is one of those tragic cases that, as you look back, your heart is broken, especially for these families. And I don't blame that mother for being angry, and don't even blame her for being angry at me because I'm the only face of this she knows," he said.

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Clinton's successor, Tucker, reduced DuMond's sentence to to 39 years, making him eligible for parole. When Huckabee became governor in 1996, he said he was considering commuting DuMond's sentence to time served. After the victim and her supporters protested, Huckabee did not do so, but he reportedly wrote a letter to DuMond saying "my desire is that you be released from prison."

Soon after, Huckabee met with the parole board, which had the power to free DuMond. After the meeting, many board members reversed their votes from the previous year, and DuMond was paroled. After he was released, DuMond moved to Missouri, where he sexually assaulted and murdered Shields. He was the leading suspect in another rape and murder when he died in prison in 2005.

Smith asked Huckabee if he thought DuMond could have been innocent of the first crime and whether he should have been paroled.

"It wasn't so much as innocence, but it was the sentence and the fact that while he was awaiting trial someone broke into his home, they hog-tied him, they castrated him, they left him for dead," Huckabee said. "His two young sons came home from school, found him in a pool of blood. His testicles were placed on a jar on the sheriff's desk in the Ford City, Ark., sheriff's department. It was a horrible case from start to finish for everybody, for the victims, for him. He received a very harsh sentence, harsh enough that my predecessor, Jim Guy Tucker, in concert with Bill Clinton, who was actually governor at the time, reduced his sentence. That's what made him parole eligible."

"I considered, because it was on my desk when I became governor, a further commutation, but ended up deciding against it. So, I denied it," Huckabee added. "But it happened, his parole, while I was governor, even though by law governors can't parole anybody."

Huckabee also talked about the letter he wrote.

"The letter said that 'I support your release from prison.' That's the part that gets quoted. The part that doesn't get quoted is, 'but I deny your commutation request.' It was a letter of denial of his commutation," he said. "Even after that, when he was parole eligible, it was years later when the parole board finally decided to do it. And that parole board that originally asked me to meet with them was a parole board made up entirely of people appointed by Bill Clinton or Jim Guy Tucker."

Huckabee firmly denied putting pressure on the parole board, despite the claims of some.

"They did say that… six years after this meeting that they requested. And that was three of the seven members who is said it, all of whom I did not reappoint to their $75,000 a year jobs. Interesting that it took them six years to come forth and say it after they lost their jobs and during the middle of an election year in which my opponent in that election made clemencies the primary focus of her campaign," he said.

"It's a horrible story. You know, the real tragedy… the real tragedy is there are some families hurting and grieving, and some now are wanting to exploit them for political purposes," Huckabee added. "For American politics to be reduced to the exploitations of crime victims and to reach into their grief and try to make them the centerpiece, it's really the worst politics of all."

When challenged, Huckabee also said he was aware of other victims of DuMond who contacted his office and pleaded not to release him from prison.

"There weren't a lot of letters. There was one visit from the victim in Ford City. There was another letter from a lady in Arkansas, and that was one of the reasons that I didn't end up commuting that sentence… It was the influence of the fact that there was just doubts about him getting out without supervision. I just didn't feel comfortable with that," he said.

Huckabee concluded the interview by saying that he could not have stopped the parole.

"Legally, I could not stop his parole. Governors can't do that. They can't start it. They can't stop it," Huckabee said. "And if one understands the basic essence -- for a governor to add to a person's sentence would be double jeopardy. Separation of powers makes it so that once the case has been adjudicated, a governor can reduce a sentence, but a governor cannot add to it, and stopping a parole would be adding to a sentence."