Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Multiple cop-killer is killed by cop

The nightmare in Tacoma is now over. Here is the New York Times story:
SEATTLE — A man suspected of fatally shooting four uniformed police officers was shot and killed early Tuesday by a Seattle police officer who chanced upon him during a routine patrol.

The death of the suspect, Maurice Clemmons, 37, capped a huge manhunt that had fanned out through Seattle over the last two days involving scores of police officers. Officials said Mr. Clemmons had been carrying a gun that had belonged to one of the four officers, who were killed at a coffee shop near Tacoma on Sunday morning.

In an interview, the city’s interim police chief, John Diaz, said the officer was patrolling a working-class neighborhood in south Seattle when he came across an empty car on the street, its hood up and its engine idling. The officer called in a report on the vehicle, which turned out to be stolen, and was sitting in his patrol cruiser, writing up paperwork, when he saw Mr. Clemmons approaching from behind.

The officer, a seven-year veteran, recognized Mr. Clemmons “immediately,” Mr. Diaz said, and noticed that the suspect was trying to pull something from one of his pockets. He ordered Mr. Clemmons to put his hands up, the chief said, but Mr. Clemmons refused and began to move away from the officer. The officer fired at least twice, Mr. Diaz said. Mr. Clemmons was pronounced dead at the scene.

The fact that Maurice Clemmons was killed by a police officer -- it's yet to be determined if that act was legally justified -- is without question a blessing. Had he been caught alive, millions of dollars would have been spent convicting him of assassinating those four police officers in Tacoma and millions more would have been spent sending him to the gallows.

The state of Washington has the death penalty and surely Mr. Clemmons would have qualified for it. But in a case where there is no question of guilt, I have no qualms about him not getting a fair trial in court. (If the cop who shot him is found to have acted improperly, he ought to face the legal consequence for that.)

It's interesting to note that while Clemmons will never serve jail time for assassinating those four cops, his friends and members of his family, who aided him in eluding police, probably will:
Although Mr. Clemmons is the only suspect in the shooting, authorities said on Tuesday that they had arrested four other people in the case: one who is suspected of acting as Mr. Clemmons’s getaway driver and three who they said had helped him elude the dragnet of officers, squad cars and helicopters.

Another person who may pay for this crime is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who placed second for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and is expected to run for president in 2012. Here is what Bossip.com says about Huckabee's role:
Clemmons was given a 95-year prison sentence in Arkansas in 1989 for a host of charges, including robberies, burglaries, thefts and bringing a gun to school. His sentence was commuted in 2000 by then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, said Troyer. Huckabee, a Republican presidential candidate in 2008, is considering a run for president in 2012.

“Should [Clemmons] be found responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington state,” Huckabee’s office said in a statement Sunday night.

Huckabee cited Clemmons’ young age — 17 at the time of his sentencing — when he announced his decision to commute the sentence, according to newspaper articles. “It was not something I was pleased with at the time,” said Larry Jegley, who prosecuted Clemmons for aggravated robbery and other charges in Pulaski County, Arkansas. “I would be most distressed if this is the same guy.”

The political problem for Huckabee is similar to that faced by former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. In 1986, Gov. Dukakis granted a weekend furlough to Willie Horton, who was serving a life sentence for a 1974 murder, in which Horton had robbed a gas station, stabbed the attendant 17 times and dumped his body in a trash bin. According to Wikipedia, out on furlough, "Horton twice raped a local woman after pistol-whipping, knifing, binding, and gagging her fiancé. He then stole the car belonging to the man he had assaulted."

When Dukakis ran for president in 1988, Al Gore in the primaries and more infamously George H.W. Bush in the general election used the Horton case against Dukakis, alleging that Dukakis was insufficiently tough on crime and had shown bad judgment in granting a furlough to a brutal murderer like Horton.

Much the same criticism will likely be lobbed at Mike Huckabee. As governor, the former Baptist minister bragged that, because of his religious conviction, had released more prisoners than any other governor in the history of his state.

Clemmons never should have been let out of prison in Arkansas. In Washington, prior to him murdering the four cops, he allegedly raped a child. Exactly why a convicted felon like Clemmons, who was a suspect in a serious sexual assault case, was allowed to roam free is a mystery to me.

According to an AP story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, there is also a doubt as to whether Clemmons was sane at the time he raped the child. "A court-ordered psychological evaluation of Maurice Clemmons in October found that he was a risk to public safety." However, they chose not to commit him at that time. The judge who made that decision deserves to be punished, as well. He let him out on $150,000 in bail just days before Clemmons murdered the four police officers.

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