Mississippi judge blocks release of pardoned prisoners

posted at 2:30 pm on January 12, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Is the gubernatorial power to pardon free from judicial jurisdiction in Mississippi?  Haley Barbour’s flurry of pardons at the end of his term as governor in Mississippi has the victims and their families of the pardoned worried about retribution and the state’s Attorney General accusing him of abuse of power. Last night, a state judge agreed, and blocked the release of 21 of the pardon recipients:

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As victims’ loved ones ask why killers and rapists got pardoned by former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour during his final hours in office, a Mississippi state judge has temporarily halted the release of 21 of the 200-plus pardoned inmates.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood had requested the injunction against the inmates’ releases, telling reporters he believes some of Barbour’s pardons could have violated the state constitution by failing to give sufficient public notice that the convicts were seeking clemency.

The state constitution requires a public notice about an inmate’s intention to seek a pardon be published for 30 days before the governor can grant one.

Five former inmates, four of them convicted of murder and serving life sentences, have already been released. The state’s top lawyer is asking the court to serve those former inmates notices underlining that their release may be challenged.

Barbour tried to tamp down the controversy by noting that all but 26 of those pardoned had already been released from prison.  It’s those 26, though, that have created the outcry.  The victims of the four who have already been released expected a life sentence to mean that the person who murdered their loved one would never set foot onto free ground.  Barbour argued that his pardons matched recommendations from the parole board “in more than 90 percent of the cases,” but it’s unclear whether the parole board recommended pardons for those convicted of first-degree murder — including the case of a man who stalked and murdered his estranged wife and shot another man in the head on the same night.

But can Mississippi reverse gubernatorial pardons?  The AG argued that because Barbour did not adhere to the notification process, the pardons themselves are legally deficient.  The current governor disagrees, although Phil Bryant is unlikely now to re-issue those pardons; he’s already said that he wouldn’t have pardoned people convicted of first degree murder.  Bryant says that the authority to pardon is the governor’s alone, and that they are final.

This should be an interesting question in Mississippi.  The state constitution gives the governor unlimited power for pardons, which suggests that regulation concerning notifications would be deficient if statutory rather than constitutional amendments — and the judiciary should have no role in determining their validity, unless the issue relies on whether Barbour was actually governor at the time the pardons were issued, which he apparently was, although they didn’t get published until after Bryant took office.  Expect this constitutional crisis in Mississippi to go to the state’s Supreme Court — and probably in an expedited manner.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Did the inmates seek these pardons? Because if they didn’t, then the constitution’s public notice requirement doesn’t seem relevant to me. Is there a requirement here that the Governor issue public notice of his intention to pardon someone? And after 30 days, unless the Governor changes his mind for some reason, the pardon still happens, right?

The wording of the relevant paragraph, which I posted upthread, says “no pardon shall be granted until the applicant therefor shall have published for thirty days, in some newspaper in the county where the crime was committed, and in case there be no newspaper published in said county, then in an adjoining county, his petition for pardon, setting forth therein the reasons why such pardon should be granted.”

Given that it says no pardon shall be granted until, the constitution does not seem to anticipate a different standard for a pardon granted by the governor without an application from the inmate in question.

Shump on January 12, 2012 at 5:41 PM

If the Governor is doing the pardon entirely on his own, then he’d be the applicant, and he still has to publish notice thirty days prior.

If the publication requirement has not been met, then those pardons are not constitutional.

LarryD on January 12, 2012 at 6:08 PM

“Morality matters. Right and wrong matter. And Barbour just did something stunningly and inexcusably despicable with his power.”

In your opinion, is any felon ever deserving of a pardon?

I don’t know why Barbour did what he did, but I’m not quite ready to rip his throat out just yet. Journalists occasionally do get things quite wrong, you know.

……………………

GalosGann on January 12, 2012 at 5:06 PM

No one who committed murder in the first degree should ever be granted a pardon. They have beaten justice just by continuing to live. If only their victims could have been so lucky.

We know plenty enough already to know Barbour did something despicable. Go ahead and argue the technicalities of whether or not the court can stop this travesty of justice. Whatever happens, Barbour is a scumbag.

fadetogray on January 12, 2012 at 6:15 PM

More likely a sucker for a religious “conversion.” All it took for Huckabee in some cases was a recommendation from a pastor that the inmate was a new person.

Wethal on January 12, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Which I don’t buy as an excuse at all, being a Christian. There are just as many opportunities to share Christ with sinners inside prison, as outside. And I would think that those inside need to hear the good news even more!

Besides God is just. A “saved” prisoner should appreciate that he/she deserves to be there to satisfy God’s justice.

dominigan on January 12, 2012 at 6:42 PM

The Judiciary in this country thinks everybody’s power is limited but their own. Their ability to act with impunity has yet to find its bounds.

TheBigOldDog on January 12, 2012 at 8:02 PM

And to think there were some people who thought Barbour should run for POTUS.

I remember hearing Barbour answer a question about Palin, and he said that he didn’t always agree with her. I wondered what it was that he didn’t agree with.

I bet this is one of them. Palin would never let murderers out.

dukecitygirl on January 12, 2012 at 10:17 PM

So the DEMOCRAT AG, is basically admitting to flawed procedure of the Constitutional power. This is a process issue, what power does a court have? Is there no office responsible for review of pardons etc. that are issued to verify it was legaly followed?

Court is the easy way out which is what has crippled our society in the 20th century. It is now the answer for most situations. This is a governmental failure with respect to paperwork and review. The AG immediately goes to court to stop release…does he not have power over the criminal system of the state? The court granted an injuction with no evidence one way or another, so basically the judge is doing the AG’s job. How sad.

Time to crack that tribunal overlord mentality.

John Kettlewell on January 13, 2012 at 1:28 AM

No one who committed murder in the first degree should ever be granted a pardon. They have beaten justice just by continuing to live. If only their victims could have been so lucky.

We know plenty enough already to know Barbour did something despicable. Go ahead and argue the technicalities of whether or not the court can stop this travesty of justice. Whatever happens, Barbour is a scumbag.

fadetogray on January 12, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Even if they are actually innocent but because of our screwed up legal system that have not, can not afford, and will not be granted an appeal

The Shear number of people who have had verdicts of first degree murder over turned in the last few years should make you pause at that statement, I know of a few cases where there is new evidence, but because of procedural reason the wrongly convicted can not get a new trial, at that point their only hope of getting their rightful freedom is a pardon.

It is blind faith in our TERRIBLE legal system that causes these problems.

the_ancient on January 13, 2012 at 6:56 AM

Which I don’t buy as an excuse at all, being a Christian. There are just as many opportunities to share Christ with sinners inside prison, as outside. And I would think that those inside need to hear the good news even more!

Besides God is just. A “saved” prisoner should appreciate that he/she deserves to be there to satisfy God’s justice.

dominigan on January 12, 2012 at 6:42 PM

And to evangelize the other prisoners.

Assuming it’s the real deal.

Ward Cleaver on January 13, 2012 at 9:45 AM

Even if they are actually innocent but because of our screwed up legal system that have not, can not afford, and will not be granted an appeal

………

the_ancient on January 13, 2012 at 6:56 AM

I said, “No one who committed murder in the first degree should ever be granted a pardon.”

Obviously, if the Governor has evidence that truly exonerates the convict, then a pardon is appropriate. That is not what we are talking about here. Barbour didn’t pardon these murderers because he knows they didn’t do it. If he did, he would say so.

If the system is so bad there are many people in prison for first degree murder who did not really do it, why didn’t Barbour pardon those guys??

It sounds like you are just throwing up smoke trying to defend a scumbag.

fadetogray on January 13, 2012 at 11:08 AM

No one who committed murder in the first degree should ever be granted a pardon. They have beaten justice just by continuing to live. If only their victims could have been so lucky.

We know plenty enough already to know Barbour did something despicable. Go ahead and argue the technicalities of whether or not the court can stop this travesty of justice. Whatever happens, Barbour is a scumbag.

fadetogray on January 12, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Emotionally speaking yes, but even the Bible gives examples of murdererd being pardoned. The ideal that the FF had was that he should have the power based on his discreation. Sometimes Governors/POTUSes judge wrong and so it is. just like we have the adgae that it is better that 12 guilty run free than one innocent be punished. It’s the best principle in an unjust world and one should take solace that in the hereafter, justice will be rendered.

AH_C on January 13, 2012 at 3:01 PM

Emotionally speaking yes, but ……

AH_C on January 13, 2012 at 3:01 PM

Emotion has nothing to do with it. It is not logical to let people who made the choice to murder an innocent human being enjoy the rest of their lives while the families of the victim mourn their loss and the murderer’s victim rots in his grave.

If you believe in the importance of personal responsiblility, it has to start right there.

The only logical reason to allow the murderer to live is the possibility the legal system got it wrong. If the legal system got it wrong, the convict should be pardoned.

There is no other rational excuse for pardoning someone who was convicted of first degree murder. There are only rationalizations.

I suppose there may be emotion here after all. I know leftists don’t get it since they are morally bankrupt, but I am horrified there are so many of you on a conservative blog who don’t get it.

fadetogray on January 13, 2012 at 3:52 PM

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