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.