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Haley Barbour Pardons 14 Murderers; Judge Orders Halt

Here’s a story I never expected to see: Mississippi Haley Barbour, a respected conservative and former RNC Chair, has gone on a pardon spree on his way out of office, drawing howls from Democrats. A judge has issued an injunction against more pardons.

CSM (“Did Haley Barbour’s pardon spree go too far?“)

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.

The release Sunday of one convicted killer, David Gatlin, raised fears among those who knew his victim, a slain wife and mom, that he would try to “finish what he started,” CNN reported.

More broadly, the 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.

This just came over the wire from CNN (“Mississippi judge blocks release of pardoned prisoners“):

A Mississippi judge Wednesday evening issued a temporary injunction forbidding the release of any more prisoners pardoned by outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour.

Four convicted murderers and a convicted armed robber were released Sunday, but they must contact officials on a daily basis as the matter is adjudicated.
“We have ordered that they report to the Department of Corrections,” said Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. “It’s a slap in the face to everyone in law enforcement and Gov. Barbour should be ashamed,” he said. A court hearing on the matter will be held January 23.

Hood said Barbour violated Mississippi’s Constitution because the pardon requests for some inmates were not published 30 days in advance, as required.
Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Tomie Green issued the injunction, saying it appeared the pardons, including those for the four murderers, did not meet the 30-day requirement.

I know next to nothing about the particulars in these cases, so have no opinion on the merits. On the surface, though, this is not only shocking coming from Barbour but another indication that giving chief executives the power to set aside convictions is problematic. That’s especially the case in the closing hours of an administration, where a politician with nothing left to lose can send a final Screw You to his opponents or, indeed, the citizenry.

Update (Doug Mataconis): Over at Hot Air, Jazz Shaw notes that Barbour’s pardons may have violated a provision of the Mississippi Constitution requiring that requests for pardon be published in a newspaper in the county where the crime was committed at least 30 days beforehand. It appears that some of the pardons may not have complied with this provision. There is also a provision of Mississippi law that requires the Governor to notify victims and families before granting a pardon to give them an opportunity to comment. This also may not have been complied with.

As James notes, this is all quite odd. Barbour is hardly soft on crime and none of the people pardoned appear to be people with political connections or access to money of any kind.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. John Peabody says:

    In a smilar vein, my memory tells me that there was a fairly recent Illinois governor who commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment. That also brought out the howls. But that made more sense than this, at least politically. A head-scratcher.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    To Governor Barbour: Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    To Doug: It may be that things are not as they appear.

    To the Mississippi AG: Look for a large PAC that has been disolved and for which the funds have been privitized.

    To the GOP mainstream: YOU GUYS dodged a bullet on this one.

    To James and Doug: You guys SURE you want to stay with this circus?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

  3. signalfire says:

    Meanwhile, hundreds of nonviolent marijuana possession convicted ‘felons’ are still in jail…

    as Arnold Schwartzennegger said, ‘it’s not a drug, it’s a leaf’.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 11

  4. anjin-san says:

    Haley Barbour, a respected conservative

    So is Huckabee. Did not stop him from making questionable pardons. You might want to come to grips with the fact that a lot of “respected conservatives” are more worried about gay marriage, dictating what women do with their bodies and a bizarro universe where Obama is a jihadist communist than issues that conservatives like to think they are strong on, such as cracking down on crime, national security and fiscal responsibility.

    The Fox years have taken their toll…

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 47

  5. Rob Crawford says:

    @anjin-san: Talking point, much?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 16

  6. Chefmarty says:

    Uh, Doug….from the Christian Science Monitor:

    “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”

    Not to imply that these particular one don’t deserve it, but the shear number of pardons is sure to invite much closer scrutiny.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. Sean says:

    “none of the people pardoned appear to be people with political connections or access to money of any kind”

    I bet the “Jackson socialite” who drunkenly ran over two people has both.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  8. anjin-san says:

    @ Rob

    Talking point, much?

    Please feel free to refute anything I said. It should be easy if I am just repeating talking points.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 21

  9. Graham says:

    @signalfire:

    Meanwhile, hundreds of nonviolent marijuana possession convicted ‘felons’ are still in jail…

    I hope that we never hear about these pardons because they’re simply uninteresting, but I suspect it’s because they don’t happen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  10. As a conservative who respects the rule of law, I have no problem surmising that this may simply be pay to play politics.

    Barbour always impressed me as a skank (conservative or not), and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he were selling these pardon’s out the back door. He impresses me as the type who thinks he is entitled to such behavior because it’s “how things are done.”

    His Republican Brother in fat, Dennis Hastert, is one of the “conservative” privateers who deserves a great deal of credit for the demise of the R party in IL. These are the people who turned a party of ideas into a party of patronage pigs feeding at the trough, and I hope there is special place reserved for them to contemplate their greed and mendacity for enternity.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 6

  11. Idle capacity says:

    @anjin-san:

    Time to grow up and quit blaming individual decisions on Fox News. The fact that you pull the Fox News shtick out is evidence eough to prove you’re just too immature to deal with complex info and come to reasonable conclusions. Move on man, time to grow up. Fox News isn’t out to get you.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 25 Thumb down 11

  12. anjin-san says:

    Fox News isn’t out to get you.

    Of course not. It is just out to train lemmings & doing a bang up job of it. Enjoy the march to the cliff.

    BTW I notice that none of the grownups in here visiting from Wiz Bang or Freepers or whatever bastion of maturity you hail from actually refuted anything I said. And Idle? 30 years ago, I was a self identified conservative. At the time is was a claim that one could make without embarrassment. Based on the depth, or lack thereof in your post, I would say that I was reading Buckley and Hayek before your parents started dating.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 30

  13. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @anjin-san: I know what you mean. For many years now, I have been explaining to one of my friends who gets all of his “truth” from WorldNetDaily that I didn’t leave conservatism, it left me.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 11

  14. George B says:

    Maybe Haley Barbour is crazy like a fox. Pardon a bunch of prisoners without proper notice so few actually go free and get the legislature to react by further limiting the pardon power so nobody can do what he did in the future. He just severely limited the power of future Mississippi governors to ever pardon anyone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 3

  15. datechguy says:

    The right of a chief executive to issue pardons has been a recognized one since the era of kings and princes. I don’t think that should be abridged.

    That being said, if any of said pardons were not done according to existing law then they can be disallowed.

    This is not a comment on the merits of any of the individual pardons in question

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  16. Mark in Texas says:

    Yet another data point demonstrating the need for wider application of the death penalty.

    When even somebody like Haley Barbour does this sort of thing it shows that the only way to keep convicted murderers off the street is to put them in the ground, not just behind bars.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 13

  17. Nathan says:

    Any chance Barbour has spent the last year or two figuring out which people in Mississippi prisons were innocent? This is the state of Cory Maye, you know.

    Probably just political corruption, but one can dream.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. egoist says:

    If you’re a man on planet earth, the left is out to make your life miserable. If you’re a man on planet earth, the right is out to make your life miserable. There’s something underlying these pols (most / all of them) that’s rotten.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  19. Jenos Idanian says:

    @anjin-san: You’ve obviously put a lot of research into this. Can you share with us things Fox News has done that are as egregious as, say…

    – CNN agreeing to cover up Saddam Hussein’s atrocities against his own people in the 1990′s in exchange for “access.”

    – CBS attempting to use an obviously-forged Texas Air National Guard memo to try to scuttle President Bush’s 2004 re-election race.

    – NBC rigging explosives on pickup trucks to “demonstrate” how dangerous a series of GM trucks were.

    – The New York Times’ Walter Duranty covering up Stalin’s slaughter of millions and millions of Russians — and getting a Pulitzer Prize for it.

    I wager you have at least half a dozen examples right at your fingertips, right?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 22 Thumb down 8

  20. Anderson says:

    and get the legislature to react by further limiting the pardon power

    Apart from cases of treason (against the state!) and from the publication requirement, the pardon power is plenary and bestowed by section 124 of the state constitution. The Legislature can at best propose a constitutional amendment.

    As Datechguy says, there is nothing new about the pardon power. If anything, it’s been underused in Mississippi; I believe Barbour’s Democratic predecessor in office pardoned only *one* person.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mark in Texas:

    When even somebody like Haley Barbour does this sort of thing it shows that the only way to keep convicted murderers off the street is to put them in the ground, not just behind bars.

    Yeah! Just like you guys did with Cameron Todd Willingham!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Nathan:

    Any chance Barbour has spent the last year or two figuring out which people in Mississippi prisons were innocent?

    BwaaaHaaahaaahaaaahaaahaha….

    Nathan, you crack me up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  23. Jim Brown says:

    @Idle capacity:
    The other tip off poster was a liberal rather then a thinker was the canard about women “right” to do things with their body.

    I for one claim no such right. As many times as I have seen some “lady” with steel balls in her tongue, bull control rings in eye brow etc I have never gone ahead and vomited on her.

    My objection is to the murder of an innocent child for the horrible crime of being conceived by a women who refuses to control her body. It is the baby’s body that is destroyed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 7

  24. JKB says:

    Just a speculation but I wonder if this isn’t an attempt to clean up after Dr. Hayne, Mississippi’s quasi-official state medical examiner, whose 20 yr career put a lot of innocent people in jail

    J.D. Sanders is a former Columbus, Mississippi, police chief who now works as an assistant police chief in Franklin, Tennessee. “There’s no question in my mind that there are innocent people doing time at Parchman Penitentiary due to the testimony of Dr. Hayne,” Sanders says. “There may even be some on death row.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  25. PogueMahone says:

    – The New York Times’ Walter Duranty covering up Stalin’s slaughter of millions and millions of Russians — and getting a Pulitzer Prize for it.

    Yeah! And who could forget the New England Courant’s refusal to cover Sarah Good’s blatant sorcery during the Salem witch trials, huh?

    So there!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  26. PogueMahone says:

    @Mark in Texas:
    I can never understand the conservative’s reasoning behind the death penalty. They feel that government cannot do anything right, except when it comes to killing people.
    When it comes to killing people, the Right believes that the government is so competent that it should do it much more often. Despite, of course, the abundance of proven exonerations plus the fact that capitol punishment is irreversible and more expensive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

  27. Ben Wolf says:

    @Mark in Texas: You can always count on an executuon or two to cheer up a Texan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  28. monkeyboy says:

    @PogueMahone:

    Forsooth, and obvious evidence that too many conservatives “reason” from emotion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  29. anjin-san says:

    @ Idle

    Like I said, everyone is free to refute even a single thing I have said. So far, no one has. If you are going to infer that you are a “thinker” perhaps you should, you know, say something thoughtful…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  30. Harris Abrams says:

    From the posting: “Barbour . . . may be leaving politics for good.”
    Oh, he’s leaving politics for good all right — whether he wants to or not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. anjin-san says:

    Sorry, the last post was directed at the noted thinker Jim Brown, not idle. What’s your story anyway Jim – did you get mugged by a girl with piercings or something?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  32. DRS says:

    Why is it always the woman who “can’t control her own body”? (Must be a Texas thing.) How about because a man couldn’t keep his own body under control?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  33. Holmes says:

    Are any of these related to the rampant prosecutorial misconduct in Mississippi?
    http://reason.com/archives/2009/02/19/reasons-reporting-on-steven-ha

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Holmes says:

    Barbour signed a bill last year requiring higher qualifications for medical examiners. But the bill did not reopen old cases. I wonder if Barbour knew a number of these cases had Hayne as an examiner and just wanted justice for them, rather than risk sending innocent people to rot in prison and/or be executed.
    http://reason.com/archives/2010/03/29/progress-and-challenges-in-mis

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Anderson says:

    @JKB: Unfortunately, it seems not, though that was an early hope.

    For anyone curious, these two blogs are the best place to follow the story:

    NMissCommentor and Jackson Jambalaya.

    Lots of good stuff on who was pardoned, how icky some were, who *wasn’t* pardoned, etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Carson says:

    “Release the Kraken!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. richard40 says:

    Considering the huge number of people wrongfully convicted in Miss due to dishonest forensics, maybe these convicted murderors are actually innocent. Although I must admit some sort of payoff for the pardons is also likely. Clinton did a similar thing in the last few months of his administration, and in his case it was pretty clearly a payoff.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. Jenos Idanian says:

    @PogueMahone:

    Yeah! And who could forget the New England Courant’s refusal to cover Sarah Good’s blatant sorcery during the Salem witch trials, huh?

    Not quite sure your point here, but it seems you’re saying there’s a statute of limitations for “aiding and abetting genocide.” Is that right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. PogueMahone says:

    @Jenos Idanian:
    anjin-san argues that conservatives are more worried about gay marriage and the like, and he seems to blame Fox News (rightly or wrongly). Then you retort with a non sequitur including a reference to Stalin era mass murder. !?!

    I’m saying that is about as relevant as the Salem Witch Trials.

    Truth is, all of them – CNN, MSNBC, FOX, NYT, ect.- are all guilty of ignoring countless injustices within the criminal justice system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. Jenos Idanian says:

    @PogueMahone: Pogue, anjin brought up Fox News as if it’s the source of all evil. I just asked him to provide examples of their atrociousness that are comparable with some examples of other offenses of more traditional media.

    And he didn’t even bother to try.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. anjin-san says:

    anjin brought up Fox News as if it’s the source of all evil.

    Actually, I just said “the Fox years have taken their toll”. Evil was not mentioned, nor even being mean. The resulting hysterics are revealing, as is a recent study that shows Fox viewers are less informed than people who do not watch the news at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. anjin-san says:

    I see the folks who were unable to refute anything I said here have actually mastered mouse clicking, thus hiding my comment. Let’s bring it back for another round.

    Haley Barbour, a respected conservative

    So is Huckabee. Did not stop him from making questionable pardons. You might want to come to grips with the fact that a lot of “respected conservatives” are more worried about gay marriage, dictating what women do with their bodies and a bizarro universe where Obama is a jihadist communist than issues that conservatives like to think they are strong on, such as cracking down on crime, national security and fiscal responsibility.

    The Fox years have taken their toll…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. Jenos Idanian says:

    @anjin-san: Ever notice how certain folks become “respected conservatives” the instant they do something that warms the hearts of liberals?

    Kind of like the “Profiles In Courage” awards. The only time a conservative wins it is when they “courageously” do something outstandingly liberal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. Nancy says:

    As a resident of MS, The number of murderers was 4, NOT 14. They lived @ worked in the gov’s mansion. So much of what I read in the article & in the comments was pure horsehockey!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. The Quadfather says:

    @anjin-san: A bizarro universe where Obama is a communist jihadist? I don’t know about him being a jihadist, but the evidence is pretty strong that he’s a communist. He was raised by communists, he hung with communists in college, his friends are communists, he appoints communists. I mean, what more evidence do you need? Birds of a feather flock together. And you say that it is bizarre that Republicans think he’s a communist? That’s bizarre.

    The Quadfather

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