Don't Bury Clemency with Clemmons

Mike Huckabee's decision was unfortunate, but just
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2009 5:42 AM CST
"Seldom has an act of mercy been more publicly or horribly betrayed," Gerson writes.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

(Newser) – Mike Huckabee's mercy in granting clemency to cop killer Maurice Clemmons was horribly betrayed, but that's no reason to reject the very notion of clemency, writes Michael Gerson. Strong arguments in favor of the role clemency plays in the justice system were made at the time of the Founding Fathers, when Alexander Hamilton argued that "justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel" without it, Gerson writes in the Washington Post.

Clemmons was sentenced to 108 years in jail at the age of 16 for robberies and burglaries, "a disproportionate punishment by any measure" that Huckabee reduced to 47 years, Gerson notes. It was the parole board that freed Clemmons after 11 years, and mistakes by other authorities that left him free. "Huckabee's choice allowed a tragedy," Gerson writes. "But that does not make it unreasonable."

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