Thursday, December 18, 2008

No Commutation for Arnold King Says MA Governor

The Boston Globe reports on the hard line taken by the Massachusetts governor in the case of Arnold King.

Governor Deval Patrick yesterday denied the first commutation petition to come before him since he took office, concluding that a man serving a life sentence for shooting a Boston political aide to death in 1971 received "just punishment."

This decision came in spite of unanimous support by the Parole Board, various community leaders and interested academicians for his petition. During his 36 years behind bars, King earned undergraduate and master's degrees, mentored fellow inmates, and participated in programs counselling youths about the pitfalls of drugs and violence. Nevertheless the governor felt this case did not meet the exceptional circumstances necessary for executive clemency.

By the age of 18, Arnold King had already proven to be a violent repeat offender. In the intervening years, however, he seems to have turned his life around. Can good behaviour while incarcerated be interpreted as really turning one's life around? Is it possible that for three and a half decades he was faking his rehabilitation and if released would return to his old ways? What do you think?

Should the decision of a Parole Board be set aside by a governor? I thought the governor relies on their judgment and just rubber stamps it. What's your opinion?


  1. This is why I'm in favor of the death penalty. "Life in Prison" and quickly become a suspended sentence and allow violent monsters to kill again.

    Mass is MY state, if this creep is let out, I hope you can supply a couch in Rome for him to sleep on.


  2. Mike,

    Make it personal and ask the question again.

    Assume a person like this had raped or murdered one or more of your family.

    Does anything he does while being in prison change what he did to your family?

    He is still a murderer, a violent repeat offender.

    Something to consider is the fact that only because he was dealing with the fact of life in prison did he other words: As a direct result of the consequences of his actions; he decided HOW he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison.

    He should stay there as a consequence of his actions...that is a just sentence.

  3. it's good to hear he's reformed himself while in prison. if that's actually true, then we might not have to spend the extra resources of a maximum security prison on him; medium security might do.

    but when he received his sentence all those years ago, the crime he was sentenced for was not "will fail to reform while in prison over the next few decades". he was sentenced for actual crimes he had, at that point, already actually committed. a judge and jury felt him worthy, then, of life in prison for them; well, he's still already committed those same acts now.

  4. Bob, You and I are two of a kind. I've said before that if it happened to someone in my family, although I don't know for sure and hope I never do, I would practice what I preach and not choose vengeance over compassion. You, I remember, said if one of your kids committed a serious offense, you would not waver from your position of demanding accountability. I'd rather be me.

  5. Mike,

    I agree that we are two of a kind which makes our differences stand out even more.

    I have a brother in jail right now for writing bad checks. If he reformed today, I would still expect him to serve out his full sentence because as Nomen pointed out his current actions do not change his past actions.

    It's important to remember that we, each and every person, is the sum total of everything that has happened to us and what we have done. I can't always control what happens to me, but I can control how I respond. (reminds me to re-read Frankel's book again, Christmas/New Year is a great time for that.)

    That is why I never agree with the statement "(S)He isn't the same person as when (s)he committed the crime". They are the same person, just one that hopefully has grown. Sorry but good works because you are stuck in prison for the rest of your life doesn't change the heinous crimes committed prior to prison.

    Have a story for you, I'm sure you can find it online:

    Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty was confronted face-to-face Thursday with some of the district's crime problems, when it turned out the host of the morning talk show he appeared on had been mugged in the city an hour earlier.

    MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski was mugged outside a well-known Washington hotel while waiting for a car to pick her up for the 6 a.m. broadcast of the show she co-hosts with Joe Scarborough, "Morning Joe."

    Now only residents can get a firearm permit for their homes. NO ONE can get a carry permit yet. So, here is a lady outside of a hotel in the morning....and she is relatively defenseless against a mugging. Isn't the risk of a firearm falling into the wrong hands worth the chance for person to defend themselves?

    "A guy walks across the street straight for her," Mr. Scarborough said, adding the hotel should "at least police five feet outside their own doors." Mrs. Brzezinski said she gave the mugger the $6 in cash she had with her, adding that he asked her for $20 and said something along the lines of "Give me money and nothing will happen."

    This time she was very lucky, all he wanted was money. What if he wanted her life, to rape her, to assault her? Would have her defenseless because other people mis-use firearms?

    Mr. Fenty, brought on the show to talk about education and plans for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, told the hosts the matter would be investigated.

    "This is what mayors do," he said. "We are going to look at it and work with the hotel and the police department."

    Mr. Fenty is right...looking into it is what mayors do because it is all they can do -after the fact.

    Self defense is a human right that no government should take away. Armed citizens can - and do on a regular basis- prevent crime.

    I again challenge you to post positive uses of firearms for every negative one you post. Learn about how people aren't at the "mercy" of criminals.

  6. I'm for compassion and forgiveness. It seems that he would be a productive member of society if released. Give him that chance.

  7. At least they do it right a little further north:,4670,NewHampshireDeathPenalty,00.html

    "Lawyers for Michael Addison had sought a life sentence, arguing that he acted recklessly, not intentionally, and suffered from an abusive childhood and possible brain damage from his mother's heavy drinking while she was pregnant.

    Prosecutors emphasized Addison's record of violence, including a crime spree a week before Officer Michael Briggs was shot in the head, and noted that Addison had said he would "pop a cop" if necessary."

    Awww he was abused and mom was a boozer. Doesn't make the peace officer he murdered any less dead, and his kids have any more of a father.

    Let this monster back out no matter WHAT you get more of the same.

    Like a mad dog, he needs to be put down for the good of society!

  8. Anon,

    Would he be a productive member of society or revert back to old ways?
    ...Mr. King shot an innocent stranger in the face, at point blank range, without provocation, only two days after another state had released him on parole for another violent crime,

    How does the fact that he "may" be a changed man alter the consequences of his earlier actions?

    He cold bloodedly shot a man in the face, a man who was a productive member of society...just days after being released. For that ACTION, a jury of his peers said he should spent the rest of his life in prison.

    Absolutely NOTHING he's done in prison changes the fact that a man is dead because of Mr. King's actions. The consequences of Mr. King's actions need to play out in full, in prison.

  9. mike, to answer the question in your last paragraph... a governor who just acts as a rubber stamp is best replaced by a rubber stamp.

    trusting the advice of the parole board is probably wise, up to a point, but if the governor has the power to make the final decision then he or she also has the responsibility to do his or her own investigating and judge the cases independently.

    in other words, i don't think governor Patrick is "setting aside" any decision the parole board has made at all. i think it's more a case of the parole board recommending he make a certain decision in this case, and him disagreeing with their recommendation. he may be right or he may be wrong, but he certainly has the duty and responsibility to make up his own mind.

  10. Dear Anonymous, Are you the same one who was a juror in the other case? Thanks for what you said; I agree totally. It seems inconceivable to me that a man could suppress his true nature for decades just waiting to get out and wreak havoc again. More likely is that he was a stupid violent kid as a teenager and for once the criminal justice system worked in rehabilitating him.

  11. Mike,

    It doesn't matter if he is suppressing his true nature or he truly has changed.

    The sentence wasn't for life in prison unless you become a really nice person. He became a really nice person because he has to spend the rest of his life in prison for MURDERING someone.

    Because of his repeated violence and the heinous nature of his crime, a jury of his peers found the consequence of HIS action to be worth removing him from the rest of society.

    How does anything that has happened after that change that simple fact?

    According to the idea you are supporting, I could go out and kill dozens of people, rape, torture, mutilate them, get caught and go to jail....but IF I "reform" and spend a few years doing good things I should be released?

    How is that justice?

  12. I've thought this one over before posting, as a pragmatic individual, I think that if he doesn't find imprisonment worse than execution, Arnold King should thank whatever lucky star or deity he believes in that his murderous behavior didn't end his life in the ensuing moments of his transgresion.

    He should also thank the Kings of MA for not beating him to a bloody pulp while chained to a pipe or bunk to later be found "unresponsive in his cell" and nobody saw anything that they would attest to in court.

    Perhaps his maker made him to be a counselor in the MA prison system after he realized the error of his ways?

    Food for your grist/brainmill, Mike.

    He might be a more useful citizen in prison than he would be in the free world, which he'll have a hard time coming to terms with after his length of incarceration anyway. (Cue a Bootsy Collins voice here) 2009 ain't 1971, baby...

  13. To Bob I say making these kinds of decisions is exactly what the parole boards are for. In this case he spent three and a half decades, that's quite different from your example: "but IF I "reform" and spend a few years doing good things I should be released?"

    To Tom I say you're absolutely right. He'd probably be just about useless on the outside whereas he seems to be doing quite a bit of good in prison. That's grist for the parole board.

  14. Mike,

    The parole board doesn't make the decision, they usually just make recommendations.

    Those recommendations are usually accepted by the governor but not always as in this case.

    Again, you've missed answering the point. How does anything that he's done in 3.5 decades change the fact that as a youth he was a repeat violent offender? How does anything that he's done in 3.5 decades change the fact that he, in cold blood, shot a man in the face?

    I like what Tom said, maybe this man was to find his calling in jail.

    Perhaps society is better served by having him in prison continuing his work and that is the reason for the decision. What is best for society, not the prisoner.