A turkey was pardoned on Nov. 17 in a state where an innocent Black man was denied clemency. Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders held the ceremony in front of the Governor’s mansion, where she joked about her last experience with a ceremonial pardoning.
When she served as the Press Secretary at the White House during the Trump Administration, Sanders said she was unaware there were two turkeys at the White House on the day of the event — one for the ceremony and one in the press secretary’s office as a joke.
“So far, today’s turkey pardoning is a little tamer, but if anybody sees ‘Huck’ running around, headed towards the mansion, please let us know,” Sanders said.
However, what isn’t amusing about Sanders’ pardoning decisions is the denial of Charlie Vaughn’s request for clemency. Radley Balko of the Arkansas Times reported on Nov. 3 that the Governor turned down Vaughn’s most recent request for clemency as he’s now been in prison since 1991.
Vaughn was convicted of the 1988 murder of Myrtle Holmes, an 81-year-old woman. Vaughn, who suffers from mental illness and a “severe” developmental disability, initially repeatedly denied his involvement in the crime. Vaughn eventually was assigned a lawyer, who was paid just $200, who told him his only hope of avoiding the death penalty was to confess and implicate the three other suspects in the crime. V
aughn’s confession didn’t line up with the evidence the state had, while Reginald Early’s confession lined up with the evidence. Vaughn, who is illiterate, missed his opportunity to be released in the ’90s when new evidence was released due to failing to appear. Now 56 years old, Vaughn remains behind bars and hasn’t been treated for his mental illness for over 30 years. A childhood friend and owner of a farm said if released, Vaughn will have a bed, a job, and a home for as long as he needs one. Holmes’ niece, who now represents the family, also believes Vaughn is innocent.
With Sanders’ latest denial of Vaughn’s request, he’ll have to wait another six years to apply. Sanders’ communication director, Alexa Henning, didn’t respond to the Arkansas Times’ request for comment on the denial.