The Other Side of Mercy: A Killer's Journey Across the American Divide
On a fall morning in the Pacific Northwest, in a coffee shop with four police officers as customers, a burst of gunfire announced a shocking ambush that devastated the Puget Sound and swept up everyone from judges in Tacoma to prison officials in Arkansas to candidates for president of the United States. The story of that morning's violence spans the decades and ripples across state lines. It is a story of our nation's racial divide; of southern prison farms and an act of grace; of festering hate and missed opportunities to stop a man going mad. For its coverage of the shootings and the manhunt that followed, the Seattle Times won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. Now the newspaper's staff goes deeper, telling the story of a charismatic felon, a minister with his eyes on the White House, and what can lie on the other side of mercy.
So often, when someone does something shocking, people want to know: What was he thinking? What was Timothy McVeigh thinking? What about those kids at Columbine? In western Washington, in the fall of 2009, Maurice Clemmons planned to do something shocking. And he left no doubt what he was thinking. The Other Side of Mercy draws upon a stunning trove of records-including a hundred-plus hours of Clemmons' recorded telephone conversations-to describe in remarkable detail Clemmons' past and the steps he took along the way to committing one of the worst crimes in the modern history of the Pacific Northwest.
The Other Side of Mercy recounts Clemmons' childhood in a small Arkansas town that had descended into chaos and economic ruin. Racial hostilities were such that sniper bullets flew and buildings were firebombed. Clemmons turned to burglary and robbery, and, at the age of seventeen, was shipped off to a prison farm system so notorious that it was memorialized in the movie Brubaker. Drawing upon a prison file eighteen-hundred pages thick, The Other Side of Mercy takes readers inside the prison barracks and into the fields, as Clemmons racks up enemies, extorting other inmates and waging fights with makeshift weapons.
Clemmons makes a plea for mercy to Mike Huckabee, the Arkansas governor who later runs for president. After managing to win his freedom, Clemmons moves to Washington state and becomes both predator and prey, dealing drugs while dreaming of wealth through a variety of fantastical enterprises. He believes Donald Trump will make him rich. That he can game the Bank of America. That a self-proclaimed prophet in New York City holds the key to prosperity. Clemmons descends into madness, while making plans of striking back at the people he blames for his lost youth and uncertain future.