"Before the mainstream use of background checks, most people could have some youthful arrest, change their lives and become good, tax-paying citizens without that earlier arrest coming back to haunt them," she said. That changed and "Gov. Huckabee found during his time in office that each year the number of people needing clemency to clear their record increased. Denying their request prevented them from continuing to earn a good living and pay taxes. The majority of the clemency requests he granted were for this reason."
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."