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Mike Huckabee Defends Handling of Clemmons Case

4620389Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee penned an op-ed for the Washington Post offering his perspective on the case of alleged cop-killer Maurice Clemmons. The Republican has come under criticism from some conservatives for granting clemency to Clemmons in 2000.

Huckabee, who ran for his party's presidential nomination in 2008, uses the op-ed to defend his decision to commute the now-deceased Clemmons' sentence from 108 years to 47 years, making him eligible for parole.

"I take full responsibility for my actions of nine years ago," Huckabee writes. "I acted on the facts presented to me in 2000. If I could have possibly known what Clemmons would do nine years later, I obviously would have made a different decision. If I only had the same information I had then, I would make the same decision."

He goes on to assert that he had nothing to do with Clemmons' release on parole: in Arkansas, he notes, the parole board, not the governor, has the power to parole prisoners. Furthermore, Huckabee states that Clemmons should have been prosecuted for subsequent parole violations in Arkansas and separate arrests in Washington.

"I can't explain why he wasn't prosecuted properly for the parole violations, or why he was allowed to make bail in Washington and was not incarcerated earlier for crimes committed there," Huckabee writes. "I take responsibility for my actions, but not for the actions of others, nor for the misinformed words of commentators."

Some media outlets, however, are still laying on the criticism. The Arkansas Times blog responded to claims by Huckabee that the parole board was to blame for Clemmons' release.

"The simple fact… is that Huckabee's influence was critical in a use of clemency powers greater than any governor before or since," Max Brantley wrote. "You can defend his compassion, but not absolve him of responsibility or, sadly, of his many misjudgments."

Meanwhile, officials in Arkansas and Washington have been arguing over which state is to blame in letting Clemmons go free, allowing him to allegedly kill four police officers in Seattle over Thanksgiving weekend. According to the Los Angeles Times, Arkansas officials faulted Washington State police for allowing Clemmons to be released on bail; Washington officials, in turn, blamed Arkansas for refusing to take Clemmons back through the interstate parole program. At one point, police in Washington's Pierce County said that Clemmons would be difficult to re-apprehend if he was released from prison on bail, explaining that "Mr. Clemmons did not like them."

In a recent article, New York Daily News writer Errol Louis chalked the Clemmons case up to "a disastrous series of mistakes" by prosecutors in Arkansas and Washington. The article came out in defense of Huckabee, commending him for bringing "a measure of proportionality, compassion and common sense to a justice system that needs more of it."

"Our system is not perfect, and neither are those responsible for administering it," Huckabee concludes in his op-ed. "The system and those of us who are supposed to make sure it works sometimes get it wrong. In this case, we clearly did."

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