This newspaper took a swipe at Huckabee for considering clemency over objections from the Pulaski prosecutor. The comment prompted a note from Jobes' wife, Jan, who talked to me patiently and persuasively this week.
Jobes was a West Virginia truck driver who got strung out on the crystal meth he popped to stay awake and the alcohol he drank to come down. When his career and first marriage fell apart, he followed his parents to Arkansas. He brought his drug habit.
He avoided an immediate trip to prison on a 1991 robbery charge when the State Hospital found he wasn't mentally competent to stand trial. In 1993, however, he robbed a string of convenience stores and service stations at gunpoint to feed his drug habit. Pulaski deputies chased him down after a truck stop robbery. He struck a 60-year plea bargain to avoid a life sentence.
William Jobes straightened up over the next 10 years. He had a clean prison record. He became editor of "The Long Line Writer," the prison newspaper. In 1996, he landed a new clerk's job, with a prison mental health counselor. "It was love at first sight," remembers the counselor, who would eventually become Jan Jobes. She never spoke such feelings aloud at work, nor did he. But their growing friendship contributed to her decision to take a job at a private hospital in 1997. Their relationship grew in letters and phone calls. They married in October 1997 at the Tucker Max visitor center. Bill arrived in handcuffs and leg irons.
Their commitment never faltered. Jan made some 350 visits. She spent an estimated $30,000 on telephone calls. And she learned the intricate business of seeking clemency. The first application was denied in 1999, even though Jan had been able to wangle a personal visit with Gov. Mike Huckabee. "He was nice, but noncommittal," she remembers.
Jan and Bill went back to work. She tried to find every victim of every robbery to make restitution. Many couldn't find records. In those cases, she'd make a donation to charity.
With a 50-page application, Bill and Jan Jobes tried again in 2003. First a hearing office and then the parole board recommended clemency. About two months later, the recommendation reached the governor's desk. That was the day, Feb . 9, that Bill Jobes lapsed into a coma and died.
Two days later, as Jan was about to leave for the cemetery, the governor's office called. Posthumous clemency was being considered. "I was so angry," she remembers. "Why then, when it was too late? "
She's more philosophical now. She's pondered why the governor acted. "Mercy is the only word that applies," she said.
Jan Jobes, a former newspaper reporter, wants to write a book. "It will be about love and devotion and a system that is sometimes hard to understand."
Without comment today, the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected a request for a rehearing of its decision killing a proposed amendment to allow three more casinos in Arkansas because of a flawed ballot title.