Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Mike Huckabee & A Tale of Two Prisoners


Would Frankie Parker still be alive if he had found Jesus and not Buddha? Only Mike Huckabee knows for sure.

In a case with some similarities to but a very different outcome from that of Wayne Dumond, Parker was executed in 1996 when efforts to commute his death sentence because of his religious conversion were rejected by then-Governor Huckabee.
Dumond, of course, was the man whom Bill Clinton-hating fanatics believed had been framed for the 1985 rape of a 17-year-old high school cheerleader because she was a distant relative of the then-Arkansas governor and future president, and the daughter of a major Clinton campaign contributor.

Huckabee, a Baptist preacher whose long-shot bid for the Republican presidential nomination has made him something of a media darling, met with Dumond's wife while campaigning for governor, vowing to free a man who had taken on the trappings of a good Christian, and then met privately with the Arkansas parole board as governor after a campaign in which religious right wingers were instrumental in his election.

After Huckabee's tête-à-tête with the parole board, it granted Dumond conditional parole only months after that had been rejected and he was released 25 years before his 50-year term was to end.
In 1999, Dumond moved Missouri where he raped and suffocated 39-year-old Sue Shields. The day before he was arrested in 2001, police believe he also raped and murdered Sara Andrasek, 23, who was pregnant with her first child. Dumond died of natural causes while in prison in 2005.

Despite Huckabee's protestations of being unfairly tarnished, he kept the letters and related documents from Dumond's victims and their families secret because they were so politically damaging.

Parker also was a prisoner when Huckabee became governor. In 1984, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, he had killed his former in-laws and held his ex-wife hostage. He was sentenced to be executed.

One day while Parker was in solitary confinement, he asked for a Bible, the only book prisoners in solitary were allowed to read. A guard – probably as a joke – gave him a copy of the Dhammapada instead. Parker became absorbed by the book of Buddhist scripture and came to live a simple religious life.

From this point on, according to an account at a Website dedicated to Parker:

"He worked daily toward leading a more positive life. From this, Frankie became a peaceful leader on death row. He was sought out by other prisoners for help with spiritual issues. He was an example to all (inside and outside of prison) that life is what you make out of it. . . . Frankie, through his example, could have given the death row inmates a glimmer of hope for themselves. Positive change can lead to a quality life even within the prison walls."
But that was not to be. A Zen priest gave Parker jukai, which is akin to confirmation as a Buddhist, and prominent Buddhists and other religious figures, although not Huckabee’s fundamentalist Christian brethren, wrote to the governor asking that Parker's execution be commuted to a life sentence. Those supporting Parker included the Dalai Lama and Mother Theresa.

Huckabee was not moved. In fact, although Parker’s execution date was set for September 17, 2006, Huckabee moved it to August 8 so he would be executed six weeks sooner.

And so he was.

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