The truth continues to trickle out about Gov. Huckabee’s law and order record in Arkansas. I’m probably more of a hardliner on law and order issues than many evangelicals, but even if you’re particularly predisposed to granting second chances to criminals, this has to make you feel a bit uneasy. Via the Wall Street Journal:
As Mr. Huckabee has surged to the top of the Republican presidential race, scrutiny of his record here in Little Rock has grown. One element in particular is the high number of prison-sentence commutations and pardons that Mr. Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, granted during his decade in office — more than a thousand, or twice those of the previous three governors combined.
Here’s the story of one criminal who benefited from Gov. Huckabee’s leniency:
Mr. Claiborne, who will turn 40 on Friday, grew up in Little Rock. In 1991, while he was living in Washington state, Mr. Claiborne was convicted of robbery and possessing stolen property and went to prison briefly. When he got out, he returned to Little Rock.
On the morning of April 1, 1993, according to a prosecutor’s notes, Mr. Claiborne broke into the home of 72-year-old Cloy Evans, in a working-class neighborhood of Little Rock. Mr. Claiborne tied Mr. Evans to a chair and ripped his phone from the wall. He ransacked his house. He took a shotgun and rifles and headed next door.
Vivian Allbritton had just come inside from hanging the laundry when Mr. Claiborne broke down her back door. He ordered her and her husband, Homer, a World War II veteran, to lie on the kitchen floor, and pointed the shotgun at their heads. He ripped the wedding rings from Mrs. Allbritton’s fingers, according to her son, Greg.
Mr. Allbritton, then 69 years old, started to have chest pains. Still, he tried to flee for help. But he slipped and fell, and Mr. Claiborne dragged him back inside the house and ransacked their home, according to Greg Allbritton and the prosecutor.
Mr. Claiborne left in the couple’s 1983 Mercury. A few weeks later, Homer Allbritton suffered a heart attack, his son says. After he had committed seven more felony crimes for which he was convicted, Mr. Claiborne was apprehended.
Mr. Claiborne went to prison on a 375-year sentence, which was later reduced to 100 years by Mr. Huckabee’s predecessor, Jim Guy Tucker. Mr. Claiborne repeatedly applied for early release, Greg Allbritton says.
Mr. Williams said he pushed for Mr. Claiborne’s early release because his family asked for his help. “And I want to help people,” he says, declining to elaborate. Mr. Williams says in general he would lobby the governor in person when he saw him at political or official events.
In 2004, the Allbrittons got word that Gov. Huckabee was going to back Mr. Claiborne’s commutation request. “It was like anyone who said they’d found Jesus could get Gov. Huckabee to commute their sentence,” says Greg Allbritton, whose father, Homer, had died in 2001. Greg called the Pulaski County prosecutor, Larry Jegley, to complain about Mr. Huckabee’s decision.
“When I heard his story, I got angry,” says Mr. Jegley, a Democrat. Mr. Jegley held a press conference to press Mr. Huckabee for a moratorium on clemencies. Of Mr. Claiborne and his list of felony convictions, he says: “This guy was trouble.”
And a postscript to the story:
In September of this year, a police officer found Mr. Claiborne slumped over the wheel of his car in the middle of a Little Rock intersection, passed out. The officer found marijuana, small bags and a scale in the car with Mr. Claiborne. He was charged with possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute. Mr. Claiborne is now out of jail on $15,000 bond, court records show.
Look, if God can–and He did–save a sinful wretch like me, then He can save anyone–even criminals in a jailhouse. But salvation, as beautiful and all-encompassing as it is, does not alleviate the consequences of sin in this world. For one, we’re all going to die. For another, those of us who commit particularly egregious sins–murder, for example–will be required to forfeit, for varying lengths of time, our freedoms. It seems to me–and more importantly, a whole bunch of folks who watched Gov. Huckabee’s tenure much closer than I did up in Boston–that the Governor thinks that either the conversion of a prisoner or his own act of mercy as an executive can compensate for or eradicate the consequences of a criminal’s sins. Unfortunately, neither can. If we are to maintain public safety and any modicum of justice in this country then we cannot afford for those in positions of secular leadership to run their governments as social science experiments in Christian forgiveness.