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March 8, 2012

Via 6-3 vote, Mississippi Supreme Court upholds controversial pardon spree by outgoing Governor

As reported in this AP article, "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." Here is more about the ruling and some reactions to it:

In their 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," 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 officer from Fort Worth, Texas, whose sister was killed by one of the pardoned trusties....

[Mississippi Attorney General Jim] Hood said in a statement 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.  "We do respect the decision of the court, but feel deeply for how it must weigh on the victims and their families. It is these victims and family members who have lost today and the criminals who have won," Hood said.

"As Supreme Court Justice Mike Randolph wrote in his dissent, which was supported by Chief Justice William Waller and Justice Randy Pierce: 'Today's decision is a stunning victory for some lawless convicted felons, and an immeasurable loss for the law-abiding citizens of our State.'"

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....

In the end, a majority of the Supreme Court said it was up to the governor to decide if the pardoned inmates did what they were supposed to do.  In addition to the pardons issued in his final days in office, Barbour also granted medical release and conditional clemency to some inmates, but they weren't required to give public notice of their release.

All the opinions in this case from the Mississippi Supreme Court run 77 pages and can be accessed at this link.

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March 8, 2012 at 06:36 PM | Permalink


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I always thought that it was strange that this even became news. It's customary for outgoing governors to hand out pardons, and it's also customary for those pardons to be given to those individuals who have some connection to the governor. And the notice requirement is just a requirement-in-name-only, it doesn't actually place any constraints on the governor's discretion about whether or not to pardon. I thought it was kind of surprising that Jim Hood got out in front of this, but maybe he's got some political designs on it...

Posted by: Guy | Mar 8, 2012 10:14:05 PM

everyone of these people should now sue this idiot for unlawful imprisonment and lose of wages not to mention the alination of affection from their families!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 8, 2012 10:25:36 PM

Guy -- Your intuition is quite right. Jim Hood is the only statewide elected Democrat in Mississippi, and this sort of thing is tailor-made to get his name in the paper taking a traditionally conservative, tough-on-crime stance.

Posted by: Jay | Mar 9, 2012 4:51:23 PM

needs to be i the paper as part of and ARREST for the criminal and illegal imprisonment of all those who's LEGAL PARDON was signed!

Posted by: rodsmith | Mar 9, 2012 9:07:17 PM

Jay -- that sounds about right, then. I don't live in Mississippi, and I don't know a great deal about Jim Hood but of the things that I have read, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Posted by: Guy | Mar 10, 2012 3:27:53 PM

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