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January 11, 2012

"Did Haley Barbour's pardon spree go too far?"

The title of this post is the headline of this effective new article from the Christian Science Monitor discussing the controversy over the remarkable use of clemency power by Mississippi's (now-former) Governor on his way out the door.  Here are excerpts:

A law-and-order Republican governor, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, has given full pardons or clemency to 208 inmates, including 14 convicted murderers, setting off a political uproar over the limits of executive power in the traditionally patriarchal South....

Mr. Barbour, a popular two-term governor who was term-limited from serving more, signed the pardons before leaving office on Tuesday. The surprise spree caught both Republicans and Democrats off stride, and it suggested that Barbour, who had flirted with running for the White House last year, may be leaving politics for good....

[T]he pardons have scrambled traditional political roles in the state, with the Republican Barbour going easy on scores of convicted criminals and Democrats clamoring to bolster law and order. Toward that end, they reintroduced a bill to curb gubernatorial pardon power. “It seems to kind of fly in the face of the Haley Barbour politician that we all know, because he is a strong law-and-order guy,” says Curtis Wilkie, a journalism professor at Ole Miss in Oxford.

Barbour has refused to comment on the pardons. Several are high-profile convicts, including Jackson socialite Karen Irby, convicted of manslaughter in 2010 for the DUI-related deaths of two doctors; Earnest Scott Favre, older brother of retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre, who was convicted for the DUI-related death of his friend; and Azikiwe Kambule, a South African expat convicted in a 1996 carjacking and murder case.

Eighty of the pardoned prisoners had committed crimes including murder, homicide, manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault (including one on a police officer), and armed robbery. Thirty-two of those prisoners received full pardons, meaning they were set free without conditions. Other pardoned prisoners include inmates who worked at the Governor's Mansion under a “good behavior” program that traditionally has been a route to clemency or pardon....

The torrid pardon pace by Barbour outdistanced other Mississippi governors by a wide margin. Former Gov. Kirk Fordice had the previous high, pardoning 13. Before this week's pardons, Barbour had previously signed the release papers for 10 convicted criminals, none of whom have caused any trouble, the Mississippi Department of Corrections commissioner, Christopher Epps, told Mississippi reporters....

Last summer, Barbour was hailed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as a "shining example" for commuting the life sentences of two African-American women who had spent 16 years in prison for an armed robbery that yielded $11....

In Mr. Favre's case, he had been sentenced originally to a year of house arrest but was ordered to serve a suspended 15-year prison sentence after he left his house to go fishing. In pardoning Mr. Kambule, Barbour may have heeded pleas from his attorneys that there was no evidence that the then-teenager fired the fatal shots that killed a Madison County woman in 1996, a crime for which Kambule was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

"There are a whole lot of people in prison who should not be there," Chokwe Lumumba, a Jackson City councilman, told The Clarion-Ledger. "Obviously, murder is the kind of thing you put people in [prison] for ... but that doesn't mean that people cannot be rehabilitated."

Other Mississippians say Barbour simply went too far. "He will not comment on anything,” Tiffany Ellis Brewer, sister of the woman slain by the pardoned Mr. Gatlin, told CNN. “We have no answers as to why he has done this. I would like to think he did not have all of the facts of the case.... Apparently, we haven't had a really good man for our governor."

Two great reads (and additional information) on what's going on in Mississippi come from PS Ruckman at his Pardon Power blog:

The second of these posts wraps up this way:

The signs of a last-minute rush abound. 63 percent of the warrants do not even list the sentences that were given to recipients. Other critical dates are missing right and left. A man named Turner was pardoned. But he has actually been dead for some time, since 1999. The warrant doesn't say when he was convicted, if he died in prison, or anything about why he was pardoned. Which seems odd given the fact that, well, he is dead, and given the fact that someone took the time to note an arsonist from the 1960's was now living a "good, productive and useful life."...

[This] was a classic example of just about every thing the pardon power should not be. The only thing that seems to be missing, for now, is some hint of "politics" (donors, supporters, friends, relatives, inside influence and the like). But, give it time. Barbour clearly could have spread these decisions over a period of months, if not years, making each one a little more well-considered, a little less suspicious looking and -- for those who really were deserving -- something barely worth public celebration. But, no, a Republican governor, in the South, and potential presidential nominee has to keep up appearances.

One thing we can say for certain, now, Barbour will not be considering a run for the presidency any time in this lifetime.

January 11, 2012 at 05:37 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Bill, federalist, MikeinCT, et al:

The Law is the Law:

The LAW is GOD:

Posted by: albeed | Jan 11, 2012 10:36:54 PM

albeed --

You have shown me that you're a good man at heart, but there are times, and this is one of them, that I have no clue as to what you're talking about.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 12, 2012 2:59:14 AM

"Mr. Barbour, a popular two-term governor who was term-limited from serving more"

Maybe the popularity went to his head.

Maybe he's more concerned with the assessment of Chokwe Lumumba
than that of Tiffany Ellis Brewer and other kin of violent-crime victims.

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 12, 2012 1:14:41 PM

Bill:

I am just trying to convince good people (you included), that there are serious problems with our Law, our electorial processes and our government. Our Justice system is just that, a system. I do not necessarily agree that it is the best one ever established by humans.

My best comment on this blog several months ago went unnoticed by lawyers, when I said any Forensic Science need to be validated by:

Specificity,
Accuracy,
Precision,
Ruggedness,
Repeatability.

This is currently not the case anywhere in the US. These are common scientific terms for the vaidity of a scientific measurement. They should apply to Prosecutorial evidence.

Posted by: albeed | Jan 12, 2012 9:27:02 PM

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In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB