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Huckabee’s Horton moment

By Michelle Malkin  •  December 5, 2007 11:11 AM

Update: The latest developments and campaign back and forth here.

Last week, when Mitt Romney faced questions about one of his judicial appointees who was responsible for freeing a convicted murderer who went on to kill again, I asked: “Will Romney’s opponents run with it or stay away lest their own complicity in revolving-door horror stories come back to bite them?”

Well, it’s Mike Huckabee’s turn this week. Huckabee’s Willie Horton is convicted rapist Wayne Dumond. Unlike the Romney case, Huckabee played a direct role in events that led to Dumond’s release. Byron York was on the case in August and now the Huffington Post has published new details and exclusive letters ((yes, a curious choice for the leakers, but the documents are still damning).

York sums up the case:

For many people, the report is the first they’ve heard of the Dumond case. Once they learn about it, however, they are unlikely to forget its bizarre details and the strange turn of events that led to Dumond’s final crime. The case is the wild card in Mike Huckabee’s record, the single most controversial event during his time in the Arkansas governor’s office. And it is a potential threat to his now-soaring candidacy.

It began in September 1984, when Dumond, a 35-year-old handyman, kidnapped and raped a 17-year-old high-school cheerleader in the small eastern-Arkansas town of Forrest City. Dumond was allowed to remain free on bond while awaiting trial, and in March 1985 two masked men entered his house, tied him up with fishing line, and castrated him. People were stunned; the case, already notorious, became much more so. And that was before the local sheriff, a rather colorful man named Coolidge Conlee, displayed Dumond’s severed testicles in a jar of formaldehyde on his desk in the St. Francis County building. Amid tons of publicity, Dumond was found guilty and sentenced to life plus 20 years.

The case took on a political coloring when it became known that the victim was a distant cousin of Bill Clinton. After conviction, Dumond, who claimed he was innocent, asked Clinton for clemency. Clinton declined.

Dumond also argued that even if he were guilty his sentence was excessive, and his position won him some sympathy, not least on the grounds that he had suffered terribly at the hands of those unknown assailants. In April 1992, when Dumond had served just seven years, Lt. Gov. Tucker, acting as governor while Clinton was out of state campaigning for president, commuted Dumond’s sentence to a level where he would be eligible for parole. That didn’t mean Dumond would go free, only that the state parole board would consider the question. The board declined to free Dumond.

That’s where things stood when Huckabee took office on July 15, 1996. Last August, Huckabee told me he had his doubts about Dumond’s guilt, and also felt sorry for him over the castration attack. On September 20, just weeks after taking office, Huckabee announced that he intended to set Dumond free, saying that there were “serious questions as to the legitimacy of his guilt.” On October 31, Huckabee met with the parole board. Not long after, the board voted to free Dumond, but on the condition he move to another state. Huckabee was pleased, in part because — given that the board had voted to free Dumond — there was no need for Huckabee to commute the sentence or pardon him. So Huckabee denied Dumond’s now-irrelevant pardon application while at the same time congratulating him on his soon-to-come freedom. “Dear Wayne,” Huckabee wrote in a letter to Dumond. “My desire is that you be released from prison. I feel that parole is the best way for your reintroduction to society to take place.”

In 2000, Dumond went on to rape and kill a 39-year-old woman at an apartment complex.

ABC interviews the mother of the rape/murder victim who would be alive today but for Huckabee’s intervention.

Allah looks at the intersection of faith and policy in the case.

CBS investigates the extent of Huckabee’s lobbying for Dumond before the parole board.

Well, at least the case has turned the media into tough-on-crime advocates..for the moment, anyway.

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Categories: 2008 campaign, 2012 Campaign, Barack Obama, John McCain