COMMENTS: The Quality of Mercy

What made the murder of the four police officers in that Washington State coffee shop cross over from a local crime story to a national one? The answer lies in the suspect's penal history and its ties to Mike Huckabee, onetime Republican Presidential candidate and current cable TV news personality.

Police pursued a manhunt for Maurice Clemmons, the accused killer of four of the comrades. At the time of the killings Clemmons was free on bail, accused of child rape and assault. It was not the bail that was newsworthy but Gov Huckabee's decade-old act of clemency. ABC's Neal Karlinsky quoted from the successful appeal for mercy that Clemmons submitted in 2000: "Where once stood a young 16-year-old misguided fool now stands a 27-year-old man who has learned through the School of Hard Knocks how to appreciate the rights of others."

CBS' John Blackstone pointed out that Clemmons had been convicted of robbery and sentenced when he was still a juvenile. "He should have been in an Arkansas prison until 2015 for a teenage crime spree," was how ABC's Karlinsky put it. NBC's George Lewis noted the original 95-year sentence for a "long record of violent crimes" and did not mention Clemmons' youth as a factor in Huckabee's leniency.


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