Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Arkansas

March
11th

One Clemmons is enough; fix that compact

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

In attempting to deal with cop-killer Maurice Clemmons, Washington state got shamelessly played by Arkansas.

When Arkansas officials shipped Clemmons here in 2004, they somehow neglected to inform Washington’s corrections people that he’d been convicted of robbery, theft and burglary in that state in 1989.

Then, after Clemmons turned violent last spring, the folks in Little Rock suddenly lost interest in enforcing the terms of his original parole. They withdrew their warrant for his extradition, allowing him to post bail in November, walk out of jail in Tacoma – and gun down four Lakewood police officers.

Washington put a hold on further parolee transfers from Arkansas until better safeguards are in place. And now Washington’s in the wrong?

Apparently so, according to the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision, an agreement that governs the transfer of parolees among all 50 states.
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Dec.
3rd

Don’t blame McCarthy and Felnagle for lack of clairvoyance on Clemmons

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It’s hard to sustain outrage against a dead man. Maurice Clemmons is beyond the reach of public anger, so the anger has to go looking for someone else.

Targets of convenience: the two Pierce County Superior Court judges, John McCarthy and Thomas Felnagle, who allowed Clemmons to post bond and walk out of jail before killing four Lakewood police officers Sunday.

Anger doesn’t have a brain, though. McCarthy and Felnagle are the wrong targets. If we’re looking to pin blame, the best candidate at this point looks like the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
It is indeed true that McCarthy on July 2 set a bail of $190,000 for several felony charges against Clemmons, including second-degree child rape, third-degree assault and malicious mischief. By all accounts, though, $190,000 was a high bail, given the circumstances. Even so – and this is a crucial point – McCarthy still ordered Clemmons held without bail because Arkansas had issued a warrant to extradite him.

Leave aside the warrant for a moment. On the Washington counts, denying bail wasn’t an option. The state constitution decrees that defendants have the right to post bail for all but capital charges. Keep in mind, Clemmons was not a cop-killer on July 2. He was just one of an unending stream of defendants – many charged with serious crimes, including child rape – flowing relentlessly through the court system. Neither McCarthy nor anyone else had a crystal ball to warn them that this particular defendant would explode five months later and gun down four officers.
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