Bar­bour’s par­dons up­held by court

198 felons got a ‘sec­ond chance’

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY HOL­BROOK MOHR

JACK­SON, MISS. | The Mis­sis­sippi Supreme Court on Thurs­day up­held the par­dons is­sued by for­mer Gov. Ha­ley Bar­bour dur­ing his final days in of­fice, in­clud­ing those of four con­victed killers and a rob­ber who had worked at the Gov­er­nor’s Man­sion.

Mr. Bar­bour, a Re­pub­li­can who once con­sid­ered run­ning for pres­i­dent, par­doned 198 peo­ple be­fore fin­ish­ing his sec­ond term Jan. 10. Most of the peo­ple par­doned had served their sen­tences years ago, but crime vic­tims were out­raged and cre­ated a furor that lasted for weeks.

Demo­cratic At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jim Hood chal­lenged the par­dons based on the ar­gu­ment that many of them didn’t fol­low a re­quire­ment in the state Con­sti­tu­tion to pub­lish no­tices in news­pa­pers for 30 days.

In a 6-3 opin­ion, the Mis­sis­sippi Supreme Court wrote “we are com­pelled to hold that — in each of the cases be­fore us — it fell to the gov­er­nor alone to de­cide whether the Con­sti­tu­tion’s pub­li­ca­tion re­quire­ment was met.”

The court also said it couldn’t over­turn the par­dons be­cause of the Con­sti­tu­tion’s sepa­ra­tion of pow­ers of the dif­fer­ent branches of gov­ern­ment.

“In this decision, the Supreme Court has reaf­firmed more than a cen­tury of set­tled law in our state. But this was not only about the power of the par­don or even the power of the of­fice, but about the abil­ity of a gov­er­nor to grant mercy,” Mr. Bar­bour said in a state­ment.

The Supreme Court’s rul­ing hit crime vic­tims hard.

“I hope Ha­ley Bar­bour and the Supreme Court jus­tices can sleep at night,” said Joann Martin, a pro­ba­tion off icer from Fort Worth, Texas, whose sis­ter was killed by one of the par­doned trusties.

She thanked Mr. Hood for try­ing to send the killer back to jail.

“God has the final say and that’s all I have to say about it,” she said.

Mr. Hood said that he will pur­sue an ini­tia­tive to amend the Con­sti­tu­tion “to make it very clear that the ju­di­cial branch is re­spon­si­ble for en­forc­ing the 30-day no­ti­fi­ca­tion pe­riod in the fu­ture” and called on vic­tims groups, law en­force­ment and other vol­un­teers to help ob­tain sig­na­tures to put a mea­sure on the bal­lot.

Mr. Bar­bour’s state­ment said he un­der­stands “the nat­u­ral feel­ings of vic­tims and their fam­i­lies” and rec­og­nizes that par­dons are gen­er­ally un­pop­u­lar.

“Nev­er­the­less, these were de­ci­sions based on re­pen­tance, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, and re­demp­tion, lead­ing to for­give­ness and the right de­fined and given by the state con­sti­tu­tion to the gov­er­nor to of­fer such peo­ple a sec­ond chance,” he said.

Of those par­doned, 10 were in­car­cer­ated at the time. Oth­ers just wanted to clear their names or have their rights re­stored.

The five for­mer Gov­er­nor’s Man­sion trusties had al­ready been re­leased on their par­dons by the time Mr. Hood per­suaded a lower court judge to is­sue a re­strain­ing or­der. The or­der kept five other in­mates in prison and re­quired the trusties to check in ev­ery 24 hours and show up for court hear­ings.

One of the trusties, how­ever, Joseph Oz­ment, moved to Laramie, Wyo., and re­fused to come back. At­tor­ney Robert Mox­ley said Thurs­day his client felt like “he wasn’t re­ally free un­til to­day.”

Mis­sis­sippi Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions spokes­woman Tara Booth said the in­mates who had been held on the tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der will be re­leased 48 hours af­ter law en­force­ment and prose­cu­tors are no­ti­fied in the county where they were con­victed.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Kevin Con­can­non, USDA’S un­der­sec­re­tary for food, nu­tri­tion and con­sumer ser­vices, tes­ti­fied be­fore a House panel on Thurs­day.

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