Parkland Police Murders- Epic Justice System Fail?
Many people consider the Parkland police murders which occurred on November 29, 2009 to be one of the epic failures in the criminal justice system of modern times. Maurice Clemmons, a 37 year old ex-convict who had been paroled from the State of Arkansas to his native Washington State, murdered four Lakewood, WA police officers as they worked on reports at a table in a coffee shop. Clemmons, who had moved from Washington State to Arkansas as a teenager, had been convicted of numerous serious crimes by his 17th birthday, including robbery with a firearm, possession of a firearm, burglary, and theft. Clemmons consistently demonstrated violent behavior throughout his trials, including several attacks and attempts to attack jail staff and courtroom security, and had made courtroom appearances in chains to prevent further violence. He had been sentenced to over 60 years in prison by 1989, and served 11 years before he applied for clemency to then-governor Mike Huckabee.
Clemmons represented himself as a changed and remorseful man, and was granted clemency in 2000 over the strong objections of prosecutors. He was immediately released from prison on parole. Wasting little time before returning to his criminal ways, Clemmons committing a fresh armed robbery in March 2001 and was convicted and returned to prison on a 10 year sentence. Despite his extensive record of violent crime, he was again paroled in 2004 after serving only 30% of his sentence on the armed robbery charge. After that release, he returned to his native state of Washington where his parole was taken over by corrections authorities by arrangement with Arkansas. During the period from 2004 through 2009, there is little official information regarding criminal activity by Clemmons in Washington State.
In 2009, Clemmons began displaying serious mental problems, and was arrested after attacking neighbors, at which time he threatened to kill jail workers and police prior to his release on bail. He continued to behave in dangerous and erratic ways, sexually attacking two young female relatives and actively hallucinating. He was arrested on the sexual assault charges and held until November of 2009, when a Washington judge reduced his bail over prosecution objections and he was once again released. He repeatedly told friends and family members he wanted to kill police officers, and 6 days after his release, drove with a prison pal to a café where he saw police cars parked. He entered the building and gunned down 4 police officers in the restaurant before being wounded and fleeing. Incredibly, several friends and family members were arrested for helping Clemmons with cash and shelter while he was a fugitive from a police manhunt. He was later killed by a police officer who recognized him and tried to arrest the cop killer.
The case of Maurice Clemmons starkly illustrates how the criminal justice system allows chronic violent criminals to be released over and over, regardless of their continuing dangerous behavior. It likely cost former Governor Mike Huckabee the presidential nomination. But for the four victims of the Parkland police murders, the price was much higher.