In 1984, 37-year-old Wayne Dumond raped 17-year-old cheerleader Ashley Stevens in
Mike Huckabee won the gubernatorial race in
Accordingly, Governor Huckabee opened a parole investigation for Dumond. The parole investigation recommended that Dumond be paroled, and a public outcry ensued. (Please mentally mark this spot in the narrative, Loyal Reader. We’ll be returning here shortly.) However, Huckabee disregarded the outburst of protest to the advice of the parole board, and commuted Dumond’s sentence to time served, in September of 1999. Note that Huckabee did not pardon Dumond or otherwise exonerate him of the crime; instead, he commuted Dumond’s sentence, meaning that he thought Dumond had been punished enough.
Things worked out very badly after that. In August of 2000, Dumond moved to
Now, let’s please return to that previously-marked spot in the mental narrative. Why did Huckabee take what appears to have been a significant political risk and let Dumond walk out of prison?
Let's look at his side of the story first: Both as Governor and as a candidate for President, Huckabee and his staff have said that Huckabee paroled Dumond on the advice of the parole investigation board, and because Huckabee’s review of the facts indicated that there was little danger that Dumond would commit violent crimes again if released. In Huckabee’s campaign book “From Hope To Higher Ground,” he stated that he was moved to feel compassion for Dumond because while awaiting trial for the rape of Stevens, unknown assailants allegedly broke into his house, hogtied him, and crudely removed his testicles; and because his religious faith guided him to act with compassion for those who seek forgiveness for their past misdeeds.**
The HuffPost, however, rehashes information that the journalist originally reported in the Arkansas Times in 2002, indicating that Huckabee had been given letters by other women who claimed to have been raped by Dumond but ignored them, that he met improperly with the parole board and also improperly excluded a secretary from taking a transcript of the meeting, had someone juggle Dumond’s eligibility to apply for parole so he could do so earlier than would have otherwise been allowed, and appeared to have pre-judged the case during the initial review by announcing that he thought Dumond had “got a raw deal.”
Huckabee (or more properly, his campaign spokesperson), has recently denied all of this, and thinks that the raising of the story is a good sign of the viability of his candidacy, because he is now worthy of being made the victim of a “dirty trick”. In the past, Huckabee has stated that he never saw any of the other victims’ letters, or otherwise heard that this crime was part of a pattern of behavior by Dumond (a position from which he later partially, but not completely, backpedalled). The HuffPost’s reporter has some information, and a source who worked on the matter with Governor Huckabee, who suggests that no, the Governor did read the letters before deciding to parole Dumond.
Now, I have no problem with Huckabee opening up a parole investigation and listening seriously to the advice of the investigators who reported to him. That’s what Governors are supposed to do – if there is a serious question that someone has been wrongfully convicted of a crime, that’s why Governors have pardoning and commutation power in the first place. Bear in mind, the President has similar power. The investigators also seemed to take their time investigating the case, so we have to assume that they did so in a non-frivolous manner and gave advice to the Governor accordingly.
I also have no particular difficulty with people who are close to a public official bringing matters known to them to the official’s attention. If you knew of something you thought to be an injustice, and you also knew the Governor socially, you’d mention it to her, too – and she’d be right to look into it. Once that happens, the public official should treat such a matter like any other, but I don’t have a problem with political supporters of Huckabee suggesting to him that perhaps Dumond was innocent and he should take a closer look to see if the prosecution and conviction had been politically motivated rather than based on the merits of the case.
And finally, remember that it now seems from the information above that Dumond should not have been paroled. In 1999 when the parole was given, though, things might have looked a little different – the two rape/murders in
I don’t think that we can definitively say that paroling Dumond was, viewed prospectively and not retrospectively, a bad call for Governor Huckabee to have made, if he was acting in good faith. Just because it turned out as terribly as it did does not necessarily mean that Huckabee did anything wrong. But, if the claims in the report are right, that puts a different gloss on things entirely. It suggests a pre-judgment of the case based on partisan animosity towards Bill Clinton; it suggests a willingness to follow the political pressure and influence of political supporters with such zeal as to disregard facts that lead away from the result that those supporters urge.
It also suggests a willingness to bury and suppress evidence of politically embarrassing activities, because Huckabee refuses to release the documents used in the consideration of Dumond’s case. The cover-up is what looks bad to me here. It makes it look like Huckabee is guilty of the kind of corruption I describe above; it makes it look more like Huckabee was not acting in good faith. Certainly it’s a reminder that the power of an executive is great, and consequential. It’s also a reminder that such power can easily be abused when it’s placed in even the hands of a basically decent person.
The question now is whether Huckabee’s basic decency got submerged under political pressures. Right now, I don’t think I have enough information to make a decision about that, and I’m saddened that I even have to ask.
* I originally wrote "she accused Dumond of the crime," but obviously, it's quite unlikely that she did.
** I might uncharitably suggest that if this is an illustration of how Huckabee’s religion “drives” his decisions as a public official, that suggests a decidedly irrational decision matrix, one undesirable for the Presidency. But for reasons that I argue in the body of the post (and others) I don’t think that would be completely fair. We can’t judge Huckabee’s decision to parole Dumond based on what happened afterwards and as I conclude, the real issue is whether he was acting in good faith or not during the parole investigation. As to that issue, his religiosity is ultimately irrelevant.
***Apparently, pathologically imbalanced people sometimes do things like that to gain control over their own impulses or out of guilt. Maybe his wife did it to him. Maybe friends or relatives of one of his victims did it to him, which seems the most likely scenario to me. Or, who knows, maybe Clinton sent out thugs to do it – which some people seem to have thought although it seems doubtful on the order of the “Santa Claus Theory” to me. But we should also not forget functioning testicles are not necessary to acheive an erection, so a castrated man could still commit an act of rape.