Shuster on Morning Joe: DuMond not as big an issue as Horton "because [Huckabee's] a conservative guy from a conservative state"

››› ››› NIKI JAGPAL

On the December 6 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, during a discussion of former Arkansas Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's role in the 1999 release of convicted rapist Wayne DuMond, who was convicted of raping and murdering another woman after being released and was suspected in another rape and murder, host Joe Scarborough asked MSNBC correspondent David Shuster, "Do you think this is going to be a big issue?" Shuster responded: "No, I don't, because the reason -- the reason I think it was a big issue for [1988 Democratic presidential candidate] Mike Dukakis was because it played into the idea of a Massachusetts liberal soft on crime. Mike Huckabee has sentenced more people to death and carried out the death penalty more than anybody else, so it doesn't really fit that narrative."

Later in the discussion, Shuster stated, "[T]here are a lot of ways that I think that Mike Huckabee can get out of this, and again, because he's a conservative guy from a conservative state, I just don't think it carries the same weight as Mike Dukakis in '88."

Shuster was referring to the 1988 presidential race between George H.W. Bush and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. During the elections, a conservative political action committee ran an advertisement about Willie Horton, a Massachusetts man who committed rape and murder while on a weekend furlough from prison. In a 2000 analysis, The New York Times wrote:

The furlough program had been started by a previous, Republican governor of Massachusetts. Mr. Bush's opponent in 1988, Gov. Michael Dukakis, had nothing to do with the Horton release. But those niceties did not matter.

What mattered was that Willie Horton was black, and menacing in appearance. His glowering image appeared in a television advertisement supporting Mr. Bush. The 30-second ad described Mr. Horton's brutal crime and said: "Weekend prison passes. Dukakis on crime."

The ad was put together by a group called the National Security Political Action Committee. One of its leaders, Floyd Brown, said: ''When we're through, people are going to think that Willie Horton is Michael Dukakis's nephew.''

The Bush campaign maintained that it had nothing to do with the Willie Horton tactic. To put it politely, that was not true.

In a December 5 article headlined "Murdered women's mothers blame Huckabee for his part in killer's release," The Kansas City Star reported that, "[i]n 1996, then-Gov. Mike Huckabee joined the discussion [on DuMond's conviction and imprisonment], saying he planned to commute DuMond's sentence to time served, in part because evidence in the case was 'questionable.' " According to a 2002 Arkansas Times article by investigative journalist Murray Waas, Huckabee's announcement came after the Arkansas Post Prison Transfer Board "denied Dumond parole on a 4-1 vote" and recommended against executive pardon or clemency by a 5-0 vote. DuMond then reapplied for parole. In a December 5 entry on the Huffington Post, Waas reported that a former senior aide to Huckabee, Olan W. "Butch" Reeves, said that, in October 1996, Huckabee told the parole board that "the prison sentence meted out to Dumond for his rape conviction was 'outlandish' and 'way out of bounds for his crime.' Huckabee believed there 'was something nefarious' about the how the state's criminal justice system had treated Dumond, Reeves said."

The Kansas City Star article also reported that, on January 16, 1997, Huckabee "officially reversed the decision and denied clemency, although he told DuMond in a letter 'my desire is that you be released from prison.' " The article further reported: "That day, the Arkansas Post Prison Transfer Board agreed to release DuMond. The role Huckabee played in the parole decision is still in dispute. Some parole board members have since said they made the decision without pressure from Huckabee; others, though, said he had talked with them about his desire for DuMond to be released."

From The Kansas City Star's December 5 article:

Authorities say the two victims, Carol Shields and Sara Andrasek, were killed by the same man: Wayne DuMond, who was released from an Arkansas prison in 1999, a year before Shields' murder.

Their mothers say Huckabee is responsible, at least in part, for the release of DuMond, who died in a Missouri prison in 2005.

"What a fool," Lois Davidson, Shields' mother, said of Huckabee. "Thinking he could rule the country when he couldn't even do a good job as governor of Arkansas."

Janet Williams, Andrasek's mother, said: "Wayne DuMond should have never been on the streets in Missouri. ... When politics are involved, people get hurt, and Sara and Carol Shields paid the ultimate price with their lives."

[...]

A jury sent DuMond to prison in 1985 for the rape of 17-year-old Ashley Stevens, a distant relative of then-Gov. Bill Clinton. While awaiting trial on the rape charge, DuMond was castrated. Some say assailants did the castration, others say he did it.

But his conviction and imprisonment became a rallying point for Clinton critics and some Republicans in Arkansas, who said they believed DuMond was in prison because of the Clinton connection, and that he was innocent of the charges.

In 1996, then-Gov. Mike Huckabee joined the discussion, saying he planned to commute DuMond's sentence to time served, in part because evidence in the case was "questionable."

But Huckabee's 1996 commutation announcement set off bitter complaints from some in Arkansas, including Stevens. On Jan.16, 1997, Huckabee officially reversed the decision and denied clemency, although he told DuMond in a letter "my desire is that you be released from prison."

That day, the Arkansas Post Prison Transfer Board agreed to release DuMond.

The role Huckabee played in the parole decision is still in dispute. Some parole board members have since said they made the decision without pressure from Huckabee; others, though, said he had talked with them about his desire for DuMond to be released.

"He made it obvious that he thought DuMond had gotten a raw deal and wanted us to take another look at it," former board member Charles Chastain said in 2001. "Some board members who were usually very tough about letting people out ... (later) voted in favor of him, and seemed eager to."

Claims that he tried to influence the parole board are "ludicrous," Huckabee said Tuesday.

He did say he considered commuting DuMond's sentence to time served, and that he doubted DuMond's guilt in the 1990s. Now, he said, "given what's happened," he believes DuMond was guilty of rape and regrets DuMond's release.

"Absolutely," Huckabee said. "How could you not? I just feel horrible. No words I have can help the families feel better. ... I would be angry as well."

But, Huckabee said, he ultimately decided not to commute DuMond's sentence because he wanted the inmate to have supervision if released on parole.

And, Huckabee said, others -- including his Democratic predecessor, Jim Guy Tucker, as well as the parole board itself, appointed by Democrats -- made decisions that made DuMond's release possible.

Moreover, according to Waas, several of DuMond's victims wrote letters to then-Gov. Huckabee asking him not to release DuMond. From a December 4 Huffington Post entry by Waas:

But the confidential files obtained by the Huffington Post show that Huckabee was provided letters from several women who had been sexually assaulted by Dumond and who indeed predicted that he would rape again -- and perhaps murder -- if released.

In a letter that has never before been made public, one of Dumond's victims warned: "I feel that if he is released it is only a matter of time before he commits another crime and fear that he will not leave a witness to testify against him the next time." Before Dumond was granted parole at Huckabee's urging, records show that Huckabee's office received a copy of this letter from Arkansas' parole board.

The woman later wrote directly to Huckabee about having been raped by Dumond. In a letter obtained by the Huffington Post, she said that Dumond had raped her while holding a butcher knife to her throat, and while her then-3-year-old daughter lay in bed next to her. Also included in the files sent to Huckabee's office was a police report in which Dumond confessed to the rape. Dumond was not charged in that particular case because he later refused to sign the confession and because the woman was afraid to press charges.

From the December 6 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: Well, we're going to actually talk to him, because Mike Huckabee is a good friend to the show, and he's been here an awful lot. He's going to come on; we're going to ask him about that. We're also going to ask him about, the fact that there's this Huffington Post story that you know a great deal about because you've known Mike Huckabee for a long time --

SHUSTER: Yeah, 14 years.

SCARBOROUGH: You covered him back in 1994, and you say you're not surprised at all. He is a natural politician. But this Huffington Post story talks about how he got an impassioned letter from a rape victim who said, "please don't release a serial rapist," and they went ahead and released a serial rapist. Do you think this is going to be a big issue?

SHUSTER: No I don't, because the reason -- the reason I think it was a big issue for Mike Dukakis was because it played into the idea of a Massachusetts liberal soft on crime. Mike Huckabee has sentenced more people to death and carried out the death penalty more than anybody else, so it doesn't really fit that narrative.

The other thing, the other problem with the story is that there were Democrats that were involved in the original decisions over this guy named Wayne DuMond, and it's such a crazy story about a guy who murdered a woman, and it turns out the woman was a cousin of Bill Clinton, and then before the guy could go to prison, somebody came in and castrated him in his house --

BRZEZINSKI: Good lord!

SHUSTER: -- and then the sheriff was portraying the testicles on a jar on his desk.

BRZEZINSKI: OK.

SHUSTER: I mean, this whole crazy story --

SCARBOROUGH: Good morning, America!

BRZEZINSKI: Six in the morning!

SHUSTER: Good morning, everybody!

BRZEZINSKI: Thank you, David.

SCARBOROUGH: Hey, hey Shuster. Let me explain something to you. Hardball comes on after people have been awake for about 14 hours. Morning Joe --

SHUSTER: Maybe --

BRZEZINSKI: I kinda lost my appetite actually.

SHUSTER: But, I mean, it's such an incredible story. And then there were so many --

SCARBOROUGH: Donuts across America have just been spit across breakfast tables.

BRZEZINSKI: But David's right, it is an amazing story, and that's, I guess, the back story to it because that -- I guess there's some questions about whether these letters are legitimate?

SHUSTER: Questions about whether the letters are legitimate, but also the limitations of Arkansas' governor in terms of granting parole or clemency. Huckabee suggested, "No, it wasn't his decision. It was the parole board who decided this guy, after a certain number of years, should be let out." The initial recommendation was made by his predecessor, Jim Guy Tucker. So, I mean, there are a lot of ways I think that Mike Huckabee can get out of this, and again, because he's a conservative guy from a conservative state, I just don't think it carries the same weight as Mike Dukakis in '88.

BRZEZINSKI: Possibly.

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