Dumond case revisited
A reminder of Huckabee's role in his freedom
Editor's note, Sept. 1, 2005: Wayne Dumond, convicted of rape in Arkansas and murder in Missouri, died of apparent natural causes in prison Tuesday.
The occasion prompts us to republish Murray Waas' prize-winning article for the Arkansas Times in 2002 about the extraordinary steps Gov. Mike Huckabee took to help win Dumond's freedom. He has since blamed others for Dumond's release to kill again, but his actions over many years demonstrated his support for Dumond and, ultimately, the instrumental role he played in the parole board's decision to free him.
“The reason that I voted as I did was because Mr. Brownlee specifically asked me to vote for the parole. I thought that Mr. Brownlee was acting on behalf of the governor, and I was trying to support the chairman of the board, and I was trying to support the governor ...
“I signed the [parole] papers because the governor wanted Dumond paroled. I was thinking the governor was working for the best interests of the state. So I signed it.”
—Ermer Pondexter, ex-member of the board of pardons and paroles
New sources, including an advisor to Gov. Mike Huckabee, have told the Arkansas Times that Huckabee and a senior member of his staff exerted behind-the-scenes influence to bring about the parole of rapist Wayne Dumond, who Missouri authorities say raped and killed a woman there shortly after his parole.
Huckabee has denied a role in Dumond’s release, which has become an issue in his race for re-election against Democrat Jimmie Lou Fisher. Fisher says Huckabee’s advocacy of Dumond’s freedom, plus other acts of executive clemency, exhibit poor judgment. In response, Huckabee has shifted responsibility for Dumond’s release to others, claiming former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker made Dumond eligible for parole and saying the Post Prison Transfer Board made the decision on its own to free Dumond.
But the Times’ new reporting shows the extent to which Huckabee and a key aide were involved in the process to win Dumond’s release. It was a process marked by deviation from accepted parole practice and direct personal lobbying by the governor, in an apparently illegal and unrecorded closed-door meeting with the parole board (the informal name by which the Post Prison Transfer Board is known).
After Huckabee told the board, in executive session, that he believed Dumond got a “raw deal,” according to a board member who was there, and supported his release, board chairman Leroy Brownlee personally paved the way for Dumond’s release, according to board records and former members. During that time — from December 1996 to January 1997 — Brownlee regularly consulted with Butch Reeves, the governor’s prison liaison, on the status of his efforts, two state officials have told the Times.
The Times has also learned that:
• Ermer Pondexter, a former member of the Post Prison Transfer Board, says she was persuaded by the parole board chairman Brownlee to vote for Dumond’s release and because she knew the governor supported it.
• The board did not allow its recording secretary to attend a closed session with the governor regarding Dumond, nor was the session taped, a departure from custom.
• Board chair Brownlee [2005 note: Brownless has since been reappointed to the Board by Huckabee] personally interviewed Dumond in prison and set in motion the reconsideration of the board’s August 1996 vote to refuse Dumond parole. Normally, inmates must wait a year after a decision for a new hearing. Thanks to Brownlee’s efforts, Dumond was granted a new parole hearing Jan. 16, 1997, just six weeks after his request for reconsideration. This time, the board voted to parole. Brownlee later was reappointed to the board by Huckabee.
• Dumond was transferred to the Tucker unit in December 1996, after his request for rehearing. Had he stayed at Varner, he could not have been scheduled for a new hearing before Jan. 20, 1997, Huckabee’s deadline to act on his announcement that he was considering commuting Dumond’s sentence. His transfer — which the Department of Corrections has explained in conflicting ways — allowed him to get on the Tucker hearing schedule, which let the board parole Dumond before Huckabee’s deadline — and thus take the heat for his release.