Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Heartbreak and anger over Seattle shootings

Columnists, commentators and bloggers across the US have reacted to the execution-style killings of four police officers by a gunman near Seattle on Sunday.

They ask why the main suspect Maurice Clemmons, who police say they shot shot dead on Tuesday, had been allowed to walk free despite committing a series of crimes in the past.

The deadly assault on the police officers stirs heartbreak for their young families, bewilderment with the criminal justice system and anger at grotesque hoaxes in the midst of tragedy, writes The Seattle Times in its editorial :

One does not have to assume the prime suspect, Maurice Clemmons, committed this crime to wonder why he is not behind bars for past or pending felonies. Arkansas exported its problem to Washington in 2004, where a one-man crime spree picked up again.

Clemmons was tagged on his arrival in this state as a 'high risk to reoffend'. Those words induce nausea in the aftermath of Sunday's ambush. A paper-pushing criminal justice system returned a deeply troubled felon to the streets, again and again.

The newspaper refers to the commutation of Clemmons' 95-year sentence for a series of violent crimes in the states Arkansas in 2000 and Washington four years later.

The decision by then Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee - who allowed Clemmons to walk free - could derail his bid should he decide to run for presidency, writes The New York Times' Kate Zernike:

Huckabee, now a Fox News talk-show host, has been leading the pack of possible Republican contenders for president in 2012.

But the killings of the police officers is focusing renewed attention on his long-contentious record of pardoning convicts or commuting their sentences.

She says that in a decade as governor beginning in 1996, Mr Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor, did so twice as many times as his three predecessors combined, often with little explanation for individual pardons.

David Waters from The Washington Post raises the same point in his article "Huckabee's misplaced mercy?":

Was Mike Huckabee acting as a governor or a pastor when he commuted the decades-long sentence of Maurice Clemmons?

Huckabee is no zealot, but should any public official allow his or her religious beliefs or sensibilities to influence such decisions?

Although details of Sunday's shootings remain unclear, leading conservative bloggers in the US have already launched a scathing attack on Mr Huckabee, accusing him of being too soft on crime in the past.

Michelle Malkin writes on her blog :

This disaster is just one of Huckabee's ill-considered clemency legacies.

On his RedState blog , Erick Erickson notes that the shooting:

Is going to be extremely problematic for Governor Huckabee.

Mr Huckabee on Sunday issued a statement on his website :

Should he be found to be 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.

And he late admitted in an interview with Fox News that he regretted granting parole Clemmons:

If I could have known nine years ago that this guy was capable of something of this magnitude, obviously I would have never granted a commutation. It's sickening.

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