I really don’t like the Wayne DuMond story, so I haven’t really focused on it until this morning. But just how, I read the Los Angeles Times piece that Rich Lowry plugged in the Corner, and I’m amazed.
First, the facts of how DuMond ended up in jail are jaw-dropping:
It opens in 1984, when a 17-year-old cheerleader, the daughter of a mortician called “Stevie” Stevens, was kidnapped from Forrest City by a man in a red pickup. The man drove her to a field and raped her. He used a knife to cut off her bra. The Forrest City case drew public attention, because the cheerleader was a distant cousin of then-Gov. Bill Clinton.
The police arrested DuMond, a skinny Vietnam War veteran, handyman and father of six. He had been suspected in a rape in Texas and as an accomplice to murder in Oklahoma. Those cases didn’t stick.
While DuMond remained free on bail awaiting trial, police were summoned to his home, where the bleeding suspect told them that several men had pushed their way in and castrated him. Some authorities were skeptical, theorizing that DuMond had castrated himself in a ploy for mercy — to claim, once castrated, that he would no longer be a threat to women.
For a while, the local sheriff kept DuMond’s testicles in a fruit jar on his desk, with a sign: “This is what happens to men who go bad in my county.” DuMond sued the sheriff over that humiliation and won a $110,000 judgment. The sheriff went to prison in an unrelated extortion case and died there.
DuMond was sentenced to life in prison for rape, plus 20 years for the kidnapping. Clinton ignored his pleas for parole or a sentence reduction.
After his conviction, DuMond said he accepted Christ. So:
Cole, meanwhile, was working to help DuMond. Cole said he talked to “probably a hundred people” about his hope of winning DuMond’s release, turning foremost to the evangelical community. He said many evangelicals were encouraged that DuMond had claimed a religious conversion, and that many joined Cole in writing to Huckabee about DuMond’s situation.
The clincher, he said, was their belief that DuMond had been “saved.”
“All of them thought Wayne was innocent,” said Cole. “And the governor knew about it. We talked about it together. But Mike was very careful. He was cautious about saying too much. In an elevated position like governor, you’ve got to be careful.”
Huckabee said the DuMond case was already “on my desk” when he became governor in July 1996. He announced that he was considering a commutation. Later, he acknowledged, he wrote a letter to the prisoner saying parole was a better option.
“Dear Wayne. . . . My desire is that you be released from prison,” the governor wrote. “I feel now that parole is the best way. . . .”
Lowry found this — which happened after that letter — particularly interesting:
The rape victim, Ashley Stevens, became enraged. She and prosecutor Fletcher Long met with Huckabee at the Capitol. They warned him that DuMond would strike again.
At one point in the meeting, Stevens recalled, she stood up, put her face next to Huckabee’s and told the governor: “This is how close I was to DuMond. I’ll never forget his face, and you’ll never forget mine.”
The meeting ended, and Long, a Republican, could tell the governor was unmoved: “Most of what I think about him would be unprintable. His actions were just about as arrogant as you can get.”
After DuMond was paroled, he moved to Missouri and killed again.
Nancy wrote about this before, in light of some Huffington Post reporting claiming Governor Huckabee played a major role in DuMond’s being paroled. In response to the whole discussion, the Huckabee camp basically said, You believe the Huffpo? That’s not the best argument, but it is a consideration. And with that in mind, here’s the crux of the LA Times piece:
How a convicted rapist went free has become an issue in today’s increasingly heated presidential campaign. As if out of nowhere, Huckabee has surged to a leading spot in public opinion polls in the Republican contest. Amid the new attention, he is facing questions about whether his deep Christian faith — what on the stump he says “defines me” — colored his view of Wayne DuMond’s case.
Trying to bury any doubts, Huckabee said this week that he had “considered” — but then rejected — the idea of using his powers as governor to commute DuMond’s sentence and release him for time served. The state parole board acted before he had to make a final call. It was the parole board, Huckabee said, that unlocked the cell door.
“It was a horrible situation, horrible. I feel awful about it in every way. I wish there was some way I could go back and reverse the clock and put him back in prison,” the candidate said at a news conference this week.
Though he acknowledged discussing the case with the state parole board, Huckabee said that conversation was “simply part of a broader discussion” initiated at the request of the board chairman. “I did not ask them to do anything,” he said.
Three board members recalled it differently. They said Huckabee raised the issue of DuMond’s release, asking to discuss the matter with them in a closed session. They said his religious beliefs, and the influence of the evangelical community from which he came, drove him.
“We felt pressured by him,” said board member Ermer Pondexter. “I felt compelled to do it. . . . It was a favor for the governor.”
Looking back, she added, “I regret it.”
Parole board member Deborah Springer Suttlar said Huckabee did not mince his feelings about DuMond: “He wanted him out.”
A committee of board members voted to parole DuMond. It took the action just before the deadline by which Huckabee would have had to decide what assistance, if any, he would grant to an inmate whom he had already said he wanted to help.
“He thought DuMond just grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, that he may have gotten a raw deal and a longer sentence than others under similar circumstances,” recalled board member Charles Chastain, who said he was the lone dissenter in a 4-1 committee vote to grant parole.
You can say what you like about the LA Times — but it is a real newspaper, and these are really serious accusations. And it’s not the first time — contrary to Governor Huckabee’s allegation that they have only come out because this is an election year — they’ve been levied, as this Arkansas Times article shows.
I don’t want to dwell on this issue, but it strikes me as another time when Governor Huckabee should be saying those three simple words — “I was wrong” — but, again, is refusing to do so. Also, I’m a bit shocked by the reason for his desire to see DuMond released, namely his supposed conversion. Apparently he isn’t just running a sectarian campaign — he thought it was a good way to govern, too. What a fundamental misunderstanding of the way the Founders intended our nation to work…