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January 12, 2012

Mississippi state judge blocks some of out-going Gov. Barbour's controversial pardons

This new AP story, which is headlined "Miss. court halts quick release of some pardoned," reports on an interesting new development in the controversy over the remarkable use of clemency power by Mississippi's (now-former) Governor on his way out the door. Here are the basics:

A Mississippi judge has temporarily blocked the release of 21 inmates who'd been given pardons or medical release by Republican Haley Barbour in one of his final acts as governor.

Circuit Judge Tomie Green issued an injunction late Wednesday at the request of Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.  Hood said he believes Barbour might've violated the state constitution by pardoning some inmates who failed to give sufficient public notice that they were seeking to have their records cleared.

Barbour said in a statement Wednesday, a day after leaving office, that he believes people have misunderstood why he gave reprieves to more than 200 inmates.... In Wednesday's statement, Barbour said: "The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote. My decision about clemency was based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90 percent of the cases."...

Barbour spokeswoman Laura Hipp was not immediately available for comment about Green's decision to temporarily block release of the 21 inmates.  It was not clear how many of the 21 are convicted killers.

Section 124 of the Mississippi Constitution says any inmate seeking a pardon must publish notice about his intentions.  Before the governor can grant it, the notice must appear 30 days in a newspaper in or near the county where the person was convicted.

Hood said it's not clear whether all the inmates pardoned by Barbour met the publication requirement, and that he believes it's likely that some did not.  "It's unfortunate Gov. Barbour didn't read the constitution," Hood said Wednesday.

Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Suzanne Singletary told The Associated Press that five inmates let out over the weekend are the only ones on Barbour's list who had been released as of Wednesday evening.  She said the 21 were still in custody because processing paperwork generally takes several days. Among other, things, state law requires the department to give victims 48 hours' notice before an inmate is released.

Neither Hipp nor Barbour's lead staff attorney, Amanda Jones Tollison, responded to questions about whether Barbour's staff verified that pardoned inmates had met the 30 days' publication requirement.

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Comments

When will state legislators wake up and stop these abuses. Allow the Gov to pardon but have a safety valve like within 30 days the State can "veto" any pardon with 2/3 vote. Same with these one time liberal governors getting in and stopping executions are declaring moritoriums. Have a "veto" override of these decisions. If you can get 2/3 of any legislature to do anything then the action by the gov was wrong in the first place.

Posted by: DeanO | Jan 12, 2012 8:15:22 AM

Better yet take the Pardon powers away from Governors and have give that power to the people. I know that some States they have review boards that handle the pardon process.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 12, 2012 9:55:00 AM

"It was not clear how many of the 21 are convicted killers."
--------Better be all 4 of them.

"The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote."
--------Hunt and vote. Seriously? Convicted murderers?

Posted by: adamakis | Jan 12, 2012 10:23:19 AM

Someone is convicted of second degree murder. They are in prison for five years. Should they ever thereafter have the right to vote? To hunt?

The story notes the actions were "based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90 percent of the cases" ... it wasn't just one person. I think it is a bit hinky actually to give the executive total power here, specifically when convicted people are involved that were put in jail during past administrations. But, such unilateral power was not much on display here.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 12, 2012 12:09:33 PM

If you can get 2/3 of any legislature to do anything then the action by the gov was wrong in the first place.

Posted by: xanax without prescription | Jan 12, 2012 12:41:54 PM

hmm if this is in fact in thier constution!

"Section 124 of the Mississippi Constitution says any inmate seeking a pardon must publish notice about his intentions. Before the governor can grant it, the notice must appear 30 days in a newspaper in or near the county where the person was convicted."

Then their constution is retared and probably illegal

especialy this part!

"Before the governor can grant it, the notice must appear 30 days in a newspaper in or near the county where the person was convicted."

tell me just who is gonna be retarded enough to PAY to put up a notice ANYWHERE about a POSSIBLE FUTURE PARDON?

answer

NOBODY with a BRAIN!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jan 12, 2012 12:48:02 PM

adamakis: "Hunt and vote. Seriously? Convicted murderers?"

me: why are you so against convicted murderers being able to go out and hunt down some food so they can eat?

I may hate guns, but deer meat is quite tasty and they are basically nuisance animals who have no purpose other than people shooting them for food. As long as they are just going out hunting with other responsible adults and no booze, I really don't have a problem with convicted criminals who received pardons being able to go hunting. Especially since in many rural areas. the threat of facing another loss of firearms is worse than going back to prison.

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Jan 12, 2012 1:02:07 PM

The Missippissi has 20,000 -more or less - prisoners. No doubt a few thousand of them are non-violent offenders. The question is: why wern't more pardoned?

Posted by: beth | Jan 12, 2012 1:25:55 PM

Yes,but why would you let a convicted criminals be aloud to gained freedom,you are aloudin them to hunt so firearm is still in there procession.What was the govenor thinking when he made that decision,we have alot of other prisoners with other charges,such as armed robbery,and etc.So why, wasnt they giving a chance to have gain there freedom back,but no one was hurt in the matter of the robbbery.Taking someones life and gain freedom to do whatever.no i dont think it was handle right with the governor.Especially since in many rurals areas and other places people will fear there lifes,and more killing will go on.

Posted by: Sandy | Jan 12, 2012 1:39:54 PM

"The pardons were intended to allow them to... hunt and vote."

Are those proper motivations for a pardon?
.........................&
I am against convicted murderers being able to breathe, drink, & eat.

"If an offender has committed murder, he must die. In this case, no possible substitute can satisfy justice.
For there is no parallel between death and even the most miserable life, so that there is no equality of crime
and retribution unless the perpetrator is judicially put to death."--Immanuel Kant, 1797

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 12, 2012 1:47:38 PM

Americans must be more emotional if they want to be taken seriously.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 12, 2012 2:50:36 PM

Even if there was some technical non-compliance with notice requirements, isn't the gubenatorial pardon power ultimately unchecked and unreviewable? Is there any precedent supporting the position that a president's or governor's pardon can be blocked by a judge?

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Jan 12, 2012 3:55:18 PM

Cal,

I would say it depends on the state, for the feds I have argued that the president's authority is not subject to review, no matter how egregious its application. But that is no requirement upon the states. They could follow the federal lead, abolish the clemency process entirely (prospectively, there may be a requirement that the process - whatever it is - remain at least as favorable to an already convicted offender as it currently stands), put it in the hands of a pardon board which makes binding decisions or just about anything else. Whether state courts can review state clemency decisions is properly a matter of state law. My understanding is that current state practice pretty much runs the gamut of the above, but no state goes so far as to abolish clemency entirely.

Given the constitutional provision in play here I would fully expect whether an offender published the proper notice (even whether it was published in a paper 'close enough' to where the crime was committed) to be a proper issue for litigation.

I would expect the county prosecutor (or equivalent) to be the party with standing, rather than a crime victim. Although even there such a determination would be a matter of state law.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jan 12, 2012 5:37:31 PM

How much time and money must be spent to litigate this. This is another instance where all legal costs will be born by the taxpayers.

Posted by: beth | Jan 12, 2012 6:13:21 PM

It's worth noting that these pardons are a relic of the "Trusty System," part of a long history in Mississippi where a small number of highly trusted prisoners – including prisoners who had committed very serious crimes, often murder – were given jobs of tremendous responsibility. Those who performed those jobs well, were then often pardoned in return for their trusted service.

For example, at Parchman Farm for a long time, there were few fences or walls and very few guards. Most of the guarding of prisoners was performed by other prisoners, called "trusty-shooters" or "trusties." Most trusties were inmates who served long sentences – long enough to become trusted by the small field camp staff. Often they were murderers. As part of their work at Parchman, trusties carried rifles to keep the other inmates in line. Trusties who performed well – for example, if they foiled another inmates escape attempt – were rewarded with a pardon. Back then, pardons were relatively common. For whites, they were almost assured, though they were common for blacks as well.

Other trusties were given important jobs like training prison dogs, serving as field camp cook, or serving as a butler or personal servant to the superintendent or governor. Again, faithful service was rewarded with a pardon.

Those interested in learning more should see David Oshinsky's excellent book, "Worse Than Slavery, Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice."

I never thought I'd say this, but thank God Barbour is a good ole boy. At least good ole boys realize there is a place for clemency in our otherwise hateful modern prison culture!

Posted by: dm | Jan 12, 2012 6:47:41 PM

Thank God Gov. Barbour isn't a Kantian!

Posted by: JWB | Jan 12, 2012 7:06:50 PM

Well, it works if those pardoned truly deserves it. They deserve a chance to turn over that new leaf, don't they?

Posted by: Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney | Jan 12, 2012 7:30:25 PM

'Well, it works if those pardoned truly deserves it. They deserve a chance to turn over that new leaf, don't they?
Not if they are murders are violent offenders.

Posted by: jim | Jan 13, 2012 8:04:29 AM

One of these days, at twilight, I hope people like Adamkis run over a tailpipe lying in the road, because of this it impales the driver behind him of a family of five and they all die, with an overzealour prosecutor trying to convict him of 2nd degree murder or manslaughter. Death by neglect is still death.

Then true Kantian justice may be proscribed.

Hello everybody. Life is not perfect nor should it be.

Posted by: albeed | Jan 13, 2012 8:31:41 PM

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