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Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has granted clemency 669 times since 1996�nearly half since 2003�which is more than the 507 clemencies given by the three previous governors combined. And the governor’s decisions are angering some prosecutors in the state, who are now working on legislation to hold the office more accountable to the public. Larry Jegley, the prosecutor of Arkansas’ largest county, Pulaski County, who has criticized Huckabee’s clemency decisions in the past, said he was put “over the edge” earlier this month when he learned the governor granted clemency to John H. Clairborne. Clairborne, who was convicted by Jegley’s office for kidnapping and armed robbery stemming from a home invasion in 1994, was sentenced to serve 340 years. Huckabee’s clemency makes Clairborne eligible for parole. He has a hearing with the parole board scheduled in August. “Do you think the jury ever wanted him to walk among us again?” Jegley asked. Jim Harris, the governor’s spokesman, asserted that the prosecutors were speaking against the clemencies to “further their political careers.” He would not comment on the process the governor uses to grant clemencies, because “the first time the governor [discusses his reasoning] every inmate will tailor their applications to fit those reasons.” He declined to discuss any other aspect of the office’s decisions on clemency. Having heard objections from the victim’s family, Jegley decided to determine how many clemencies the governor had granted over his past eight years in office, which totaled 567 pardons and 102 commuted sentences since 1996, according to a spokeswoman for the Arkansas secretary of state. A total of 507 clemencies were granted by the previous three governors: Bill Clinton (426 over 12 years); Frank White (39 over two years); and Jim Guy Tucker (42 over four years). By comparison, the governors of surrounding states have granted substantially fewer clemencies during the same eight-year period. They include: Missouri, 86; Tennessee, 32; Oklahoma, two; and Kansas, none. Legislation in offing Another Arkansas prosecutor, Robert Herzfeld of Saline County, said he is writing legislation with the help of his colleagues that would make all correspondence in the clemency process a matter of public record, and require detailed reasons for granting clemencies. He said he hopes to submit the bill to the Arkansas Legislature next January. Under the Arkansas Constitution, the governor can grant clemency and is then required to inform the General Assembly of his decisions “with his reasons therefore.” However, Herzfeld claims that the governor’s explanations are insufficient and wants to open the process to quell public concerns of impropriety. “The best way to run a government is out in the open,” Herzfeld said. “Right now, the people in Arkansas do not trust the clemency system.” Huckabee was re-elected to his second four-year term in November 2002. Arkansas has a two-term limit for governors, and Herzfeld said there is a concern of a “free for all” of granted clemencies because Huckabee is barred from seeking another term. All inmate applications for clemency are filed with the Arkansas Post Prison Transfer Board, which issues nonbinding recommendations before the governor makes his decision. The board’s spokeswoman, Rhonda Sharp, said that all documents filed with the board are public record. While inmates are precluded from requesting these documents, Sharp said any member of the public can request them. Herzfeld and Jegley both denied Harris’ claim that their motives were politically motivated. They assert that, as prosecutors, it is their duty to follow through on the sentences they originally sought for convicted criminals. “I tell every new crop of elected prosecutors [that] you can’t let politics come into play,” Jegley said. “You’re a part of something better, you’re prosecutors.” Defense attorney Bill James of James Law Firm in Little Rock said that while he understands the grief that clemencies can bring to the victim’s family, he credits the governor for having made what he calls “brave” and nonpolitical decisions. “The governor believes in second chances,” James said. “When people do something wrong, they should be punished. But in some cases, one bad act does not define a person’s life.”

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