But prosecutors in Arkansas say their real concern was with the pardons and commutations Huckabee granted to violent offenders, especially the approximately one dozen murderers. An Arkansas Democrat-Gazette review in 2004 concluded that state records indicate "at least 9 percent of the prisoners who benefited from Huckabee's clemencies ended up in prison again."
In recent days media attention has focused on the case of Wayne DuMond, a rapist whom the Arkansas Parole Board paroled after Huckabee advocated on his behalf. DuMond went on to rape and kill at least one other woman.
Paroles, in reality, are decisions made entirely by the parole board, and Huckabee has said the decision was not his to make, which is factually correct, though some members of the board have reportedly suggested Huckabee influenced their decision greatly.
The governor of Arkansas makes the ultimate decision, however, when it comes to clemency — shortening the time a prisoner serves — and pardons. When he commuted a prisoner's sentence from life without chance of parole to something less, he made them eligible to be freed by the parole board. And it was with these powers that Huckabee was rather, well, forgiving.
This particularly seemed to be the case with prisoners who worked in the governor's mansion, such as Willie Way Jr.
Way had pleaded guilty to both the July 1973 first-degree murder of James Carter, who owned a grocery store, and the involuntary manslaughter death of Reginald Mack, 14, shot and killed in Way's home. Huckabee commuted Way's sentence in May 2001, making him eligible for parole, and after he was freed he worked at the governor's mansion.
In one instance, a Huckabee commutation was overturned by a lawsuit that found a technical error in the clemency process. In 2004, Huckabee attempted to grant clemency to Don Jeffers, who in 1980 pleaded guilty to bludgeoning to death William Hash. After Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Herzfeld asked the governor to explain why he would commute Jeffers' life sentence, Huckabee's aide Cory Cox wrote a letter to Herzfeld saying "the governor read your letter and laughed out loud."
It was around that time that Huckabee, under fire for his clemency policy, announced that from then on there would be three reasons for his granting clemency: "remarkable signs of rehabilitation," "substantial and compelling evidence" showing "an injustice committed at trial" and "a terminal or substantially debilitating medical condition." But the governor also reserved the right to bestow forgiveness for "other reasons."
After this new policy, Huckabee commuted the sentence of Stewart, despite what Jegley says were the prisoner's myriad disciplinary marks while in prison, and his refusal to accept any responsibility in Papadopolis' death, though he acknowledged his intent to rob him. Stewart had claimed Papadopolis, a drug dealer, had poisoned himself, though the cause of his death was ruled gunshot wounds. It was unclear how Stewart qualified for clemency under Huckabee's new policy.
"I used to be able to tell the families of victims, in all good faith and candor, that it was a rare event when a governor commuted a sentence and let a murderer back out, or a rapist back out or a child molester back out. But I can't do that anymore," Jegley said.
Jegley says he would get "calls from victim's families and jurors. They were just furious. They felt he had totally disrespected the system."