The facts:

In 1989, at age 16, Maurice Clemmons began committing robberies and burglaries in Arkansas. He was arrested, sentenced to 108 years, and imprisoned.

In 2000, the then-governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, commuted Clemmons’s sentence. Clemmons was then released on parole.

In 2001, Clemmons was arrested again for burglary, sentenced to 10 years, and then paroled in 2004. He moved to Washington state.

This past Sunday, he walked into a coffee shop near Tacoma, WA, and shot and killed four police officers. Clemmons fled the scene.

A police officer discovered Clemmons this morning in a stolen car that had broken down on the side of the road. When he fled, the officer fired, killing Clemmons.

The NYT‘s article on the story is here. Christianity Today‘s politics blog had a summary of much of the recent coverage.

In this tragic situation, most of the coverage has focused on how this may affect a rumored presidential bid for Huckabee in 2012. But I post the story here because it draws out many of the issues raised by discussion on this blog surrounding Todd’s earlier post on Tolstoy’s short story, The Forged Coupon.

Check out this quote from an article in First Things by Joe Carter. Carter worked on Huckabee’s failed 2000 presidential campaign, and had researched many of the governor’s numerous criminal pardons. Writing about the Clemmons situation, Carter had this to say:

[Huckabee’s] naivete about how his actions would be judged was compounded by his own belief in the nobleness of his motives. Huckabee was—and likely remains—a true believer in the concept of restorative justice. Like many politicians who latch onto ideas that support their worldview, however, he was enthusiastic about the general theory while failing to grasp the nuances of its application.

Judging from the records, the governor also seemed to put a lot of weight on conversion stories—a common trait among evangelicals, who believe the gospel is sufficient for restoration and redemption of character. The opinion of clergy appears to have carried a great deal of weight in the decision-making process.