Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived
Soon after Gov. Mike Huckabee announced his plan to release the convicted rapist Wayne Dumond from prison, a downtown Little Rock diner offered an instant analysis to a passing reporter:
"All I know is Huckabee's got something Dumond doesn't," he said with a grin. The jest, referring to Dumond's notorious castration and Huckabee's bold decision, was crudely precise.
Two former governors—both Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker—refused to commute Dumond's life sentence to time served, despite some strong sentiment, fed by national media account, that Dumond had suffered enough for the 1984 Forrest City rape (he was castrated in an unsolved episode while awaiting trial), and that his sentence was unusually harsh. They also weren't persuaded by inconclusive but nagging after-the-trial genetic evidence suggesting Dumond might not have committed the crime.
Clinton, who is distantly related to rape victim Ashley Stevens of Little Rock, begged off because Dumond's case was on federal appeal. Tucker went halfway, commuting the life sentence to 39 1/2 years.
Now comes Huckabee, a conservative Republican and the last governor many would expect to jump into the cause of a convicted rapist with a prior criminal record including a sexual assault. When Huckabee was lieutenant governor, Dumond's wife, Dusty, asked him to review the case. Then, in recent weeks, Huckabee received a new request from Dumond for executive clemency. Huckabee studied the case file, he says, including summaries of the defense's arguments compiled by Dumond's former attorney, John Hall Jr., and a scathing, anti-prosecution essay on the Dumond case written by former Jonesboro television journalist Jack Hill. He also talked to Dusty Dumond--and some other people that he won't name--about the case.
Then, without speaking to Stevens or her family (written notice was sent, but the family was away), and without consulting the prosecutor, Huckabee announced that "there have been serious questions raised about (Dumond's) guilt," having to do with genetic evidence that was not available to the jury during the original trial.
"In light of the suffering he has already experienced," Huckabee said in a news release, "I am unable to justify his continued incarceration."
Huckabee, who has enjoyed unprecedented popularity since taking over from the convicted Jim Guy Tucker, soon found that all gubernatorial decisions are not universally applauded.
Stevens, who had enjoyed public anonymity to that point, went public in a call to KARN's Pat Lynch show and a high-profile visit to Huckabee's office, accompanied by her father, State Rep. Pat Flanagin of Forrest City and Prosecuting Attorney Fletcher Long.
Stevens, now 29 and living in Little Rock, says both sides agreed not to discuss the conversation publicly until the matter was resolved. Huckabee will decide by early October whether to release Dumond. But Stevens talked openly with Arkansas Times about her frustrations in winning the court battle with Dumond, but losing in the court of public opinion.
"I don't thinks that sends a very good message to other rape victims," she said. "You win your case, and still, no one believes you. I think people forget that I was taken from my home at gunpoint to a secluded area and raped. Does that not hold any water with people?"
"My problem is he has not admitted to what he has done. He has not said he's sorry. He's not been rehabilitated. Until he can do that, I don't think he can be let out. Maybe in another 10 years he would admit it."
Stevens says she remains convinced that she would be in great danger if Dumond is released. "He told me he'd kill me if I ever told," she says. "I think he has a lot of anger." In recent days, she says, her father told her that Dumond sent her a Christmas card last year from the penitentiary. Now, Stevens says, she is planning on getting a concealed weapon permit, taking a self-defense class, buying a large dog and getting a security system.
Stevens is infuriated that Dumond's castration has somehow come to outweigh her rape in the scales of public sentiment.
"I don't think people are fully aware of how he was treated," says Stevens. "He was not mutilated. There were two slits made on the front of scrotum--with a sharp knife. Everybody thinks that he was so terribly mutilated and tortured. He was castrated ... but he takes hormones now. It's a tragedy that someone did this to him, but this has nothing to do with my case....it wasn't in my trial, and it didn't belong in my trial."
Stevens says the effects of the rape are with her nearly every day when she wakes up. "I recycle, I clip coupons, I have a fairly normal life," she says. "But I still have nightmares, and I'm still scared a lot when I'm by myself."
Since the meeting between Stevens and Huckabee, there have been subtle but important changes in signals emerging from the governor's office.
Shortly afterward, Huckabee spokesman Rex Nelson claimed that initial press reports were mistaken: it was Dumond's suffering--not the possibility of his innocence--that motivated the governor's decision. Never mind that the press release--and the governor's own words--stressed new evidence and innocence.
Flanagin said he gathered from Huckabee that the mistaken impression was actually created by Nelson, and Long said Huckabee made it clear that he was not interested in passing judgment on the guilt/innocence question. A wise decision. Federal courts, after exhaustive hearings, had rejected it.
At a press conference the next day, Huckabee refused to disclose the nature of the evidence that he had earlier said swayed him into Dumond's camp. When pressed on the point, Huckabee said he'd prefer not to get into the details. He did concede, however, that he was reviewing the facts again in light of Stevens' protest.
Flanagin told the Times that the entourage gave Huckabee information he had not seen before--information impeaching the credibility of Dumond's scientific evidence--but he is unsure what effect it will have.
Hall, who handled Dumond's Eight Circuit appeal, said he always expected that if Dumond was ever granted clemency, it would be on the grounds of his personal suffering, not his guilt or innocence. In addition to the castration, Dumond's home was burned down by arsonists after charges were filed against him.
"Clinton always said 'a jury found them guilty--why should I interfere with that?' " said Hall, and Tucker had basically the same attitude. Hall didn't really expect Huckabee to be any different.
But two weeks ago, Hall learned from a Readers' Digest reporter that Huckabee was considering a new clemency request for Dumond. Hall says he called the governor's office to let them know that there was a large file in the building concerning Dumond's old clemency requests, then called Hill, who passed his report to Nelson. Then came Huckabee's surprising announcement on Friday.
"I guess it comes down to who's more likely to forgive," says Hall--"a politician or a preacher?"
A new law requires a 30-day waiting period from the point when an executive clemency action is announced to when the convict is released from prison. This gives Huckabee plenty of time to claim that a more thorough study of the case has changed his mind. Huckabee has already reversed himself on one clemency decision. But a reversal in a high profile case like Dumond's could leave Arkansans wondering why Huckabee didn't do his homework in the first place. And why he didn't take greater paints to reach the victim first.
Dusty Dumond, who is living with family in DeWitt, was cautiously optimistic
"All I can say is that we're just praying and waiting that the evidence will be considered," she told the Times. "Ashley Stevens' false (identification) has made my husband the true victim ...we just pray for her that she will come to know God from this ordeal. And she has nothing to fear from us. We don't want to see her, any more than she wants to see us. We won't be around haunting her ... We have no hate in our heart for anybody. We just want to let our life bloom again... it's been dead a long time." If Wayne Dumond is released, the family will move immediately to a home in the Houston area, Dusty says.
It all began on Sept. 11, 1984, when Stevens, then a high school senior, was abducted from her home by a stranger. She testified that the man forced her into her own car, drove her, and forced her to perform oral sex and raped her.
By the time Stevens made it to the hospital for an examination, there was no trace of semen on her body. (The attacker allegedly used a condom, and Stevens showered afterwards.) There were no strong leads in the weeks that followed. Then, on Oct. 29, Stevens was driving around with her boyfriend in Forrest City when she saw Dumond, and identified him as the rapist.
Dumond was charged and released on bond. On March 7, 1985, he reported that two unknown vigilantes attacked him at his home, forced him to perform oral sex on one of them, then hogtied and castrated him, leaving him to bleed to death with his testicles lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Later, the testicles would be displayed in a jar of formaldehyde on the desk of County Sheriff Coolidge Conlee for two weeks.
Several weeks later, after Dumond and his family went into hiding; his house was burned by arsonists.
At trial, the prosecution's case hinged partly on semen stains found on Stevens' clothing, said to be from a man with A positive blood--a category, Hall says, which includes 36 percent of all males, Dumond among them.
Hall planned to challenge this evidence with his own expert witness, but the testimony was never heard, because the serologist, who was extremely allergic to bees, was bitten by one during the trial. Hall asked for a half-day continuance to allow the expert witness to recover, but Long fought the motion, and it was denied. It was hardball, Long admits, but he would have used any weapon in his arsenal to avoid an acquittal. It so happens that Long and Stevens' father are close friends. Dumond was sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison--far above the norm for rape cases in Arkansas.
The case began in St. Francis County Circuit Court, and through a lengthy chain of appeals, moved on to the state Supreme Court, U.S. District Court and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, with Dumond losing every single battle.
But public opinion--at least in some circles--began swinging in favor of Dumond. The Post-prison Pardon and Parole Board actually voted in 1990 to recommend commuting Dumond's sentence to time served, until the Stevens family, which had failed to show up for the hearing, got the board to back off.
"I think the victim and her family and even me have operated on the assumption that once a man is convicted and his appeals are exhausted, it's over," said Long. "But it hasn't been over."
Long says the defense is pulling the wool over the public's eyes with its claim of new genetic evidence. "It's not DNA," he says; the defense's expert used a less accurate method called allotyping to test the semen against Dumond's genetic signature. The expert, says Long, testified that since the semen stains found on the clothing didn't contain two antigens present in Dumond's blood, the stains must not have come from Dumond's semen.
This is preposterous, Long says, and he has the opinions of many serologists to back it up. Since antigens are proteins, he says, they tend to deteriorate over time, unlike DNA, an acid that tends to hang around forever. So if these antigens weren't present in the sample, it was probably because the sample was two years old by the time it was allotyped by the defense, he says. That's plenty of time for the sample to break down, and various antigens to disappear, he says. What's more, Hall's expert inadvertently destroyed his sample in a lab accident--so it can't be checked by anyone else.
Amid the uncertainty, one thing is certain: Mike Huckabee's decision won't end the controversy over Wayne Dumond.
Print headline: "Huckabee invokes justice and mercy for rapist" on September 27, 1996.