Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Partial Defense of Mike Huckabee

I'm still not going to vote for him, but I think he is taking way too much heat for his role in the Wayne DuMond case. In case you have not been paying attention to the minutiae of the Republican battle for the nomination, Wayne DuMond was a convicted rapist in Arkansas. After his arrest, but before trial, DuMond claimed that two men entered his home and castrated him. He was convicted and sentenced to life plus 20 years. Some conservatives alleged DuMond was not guilty and that then-Governor Bill Clinton had pushed for the conviction too hard becasue the victim was a distant relative of his.

Well, time passed and eventually the governor immediately preceding Mike Huckabee, Jim Guy Tucker, commuted DuMond's sentence to around 39 years - thereby making him eligible for parole - because the jury had never heard of the castration. Apparently, after a certain amount of dithering about a possible complete commutation of DuMond's sentence, Governor Huckabee influenced the parole board to grant DuMond parole. Subsequently, DuMond raped and killed a woman in Missouri. Now, Huckabee is taking the heat for the parole.

I think blaming Huckabee is ridiculous. It is pure 20-20 hindsight. Procedures in criminal law and sentencing exist for a reason. Obviously, the people of Arkansas, speaking through their legislature, approved of parole for some prisoners. It makes sense to put the power of parole in a parole board. That board, admittedly with the support of Huckabee, concluded DuMond should be paroled. That is the board's job. If no one should be paroled, change the law. But at the time, parole was an option in Arkansas law. Should DuMond have been paroled? Apparently it was an error in judgment. But humans makes such errors. And committees make them even more frequently.

The whole debate reminds me of the debate over capital punishment. Candidates for executive positions are routinely required to state that even if they oppose the death penalty, they will allow it to occur. The argument is that if the people of the state, speaking through their state government, have decided the death penalty is sometimes appropriate, it should be used on occasion. It seems to me that parole is the same. If the citizens of a state want it to exist, it should be used in appropriate cases. And mistakes will be made.

Huckabee made a judgment. It was incorrect. But was it unreasonably so? Was he negligent? Probably not. There were some who believed that DuMond's conviction was wrong. And there was evidence that DuMond had suffered vigilante justice that might convince someone he should receive some leniency. Wrong decision? Clearly. Wrong decision at the time it was made? Not obvious.

1 comment:

Annie V said...

I just wish that people in prison would receive actual rehabilitation, then the idea of parole would be more palatable, and the death penalty less.