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Entries in Pardons (5)

Friday
Mar092012

Mississippi High Court Upholds Haley Barbour's Pardons

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(JACKSON, Miss.) -- The Mississippi Supreme Court had the final word on the controversial pardons issued by former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, and on Thursday voted six to three that Barbour didn't do anything wrong.

Barbour created a big hoopla in the state before he left office last January by granting nearly 200 pardons that included 10 people still in jail.  It also turned out that four pardons were issued to convicted killers who had served their time.

What also got under the skin of many Mississippians was that some of the people pardoned by Barbour worked in his mansion as  "trustees" under a program for former inmates.

Barbour's final act as governor created a furor in Mississippi, with Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood suing to overturn the pardons on the grounds that some did not fulfill the state constitution's requirements that notices for pardons be made public in the newspaper 30 days beforehand.

Nonetheless, the Mississippi high court ruled that it was entirely up to Barbour to decide whether the publication requirement was sufficient.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jan142012

Gov. Haley Barbour defends Controversial Pardons

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(JACKSON, Miss.) -- On Friday, Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour defended his pardon of 215 prisoners when he left office.

"I am very comfortable with the decisions I made during my term as Governor as to clemency," said Barbour. "I am fully confident the pardons and other clemency are all valid."

Barbour faced criticism from many quarters including family members of victims. The former governor pardoned some convicted killers. Of the 215 pardoned, 189 were already out of prison and 26 were still in prison. Barbour said 13 inmates were granted clemency for medical reasons and as a result saved the state from paying for expensive medical treatment.

"Marsha and I are evangelical Christians – Presbyterians.  Christianity teaches us forgiveness and second chances.  I believe in second chances, and I try hard to be forgiving," said Barbour.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan122012

Family Fears Revenge from Killer Pardoned by Haley Barbour

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(JACKSON, Miss.) -- People in Mississippi are angry about former Gov. Haley Barbour's decision to pardon about 200 of the state's prisoners. It seems that the pardon no one can forgive is that of David Gatlin.

Gatlin shot his wife dead with their son in her arms and walked out of jail a free man last week, the beneficiary of one of the pardons or early releases granted by the former governor during his final days in office.

Gatlin was freed before the courts could step in and halt the release, and now no one knows where he is.

His wife’s sister worried he’ll come back to the family to finish the deed. She said Barbour is a coward for freeing these men and then disappearing.

It’s now clear that Gatlin and three other convicted murderers were given a get-out-of-jail-free card because they worked in the governor’s kitchen and washed his cars.

Lawmakers are now looking for ways to limit the power of the pardon and, at the same time, block those four pardons and nearly 200 others.

“The public doesn’t get it. I don’t get it either,” said attorney Mark Mayfield. “Haley has done a lot of great things, but I’m afraid that in the large measure this will tarnish his image as he goes forward.”

Barbour, an outspoken tough-on-crime crusader, never has been afraid to speak his mind -- until now.

ABC News went looking for the former governor at his new law firm, trying to get an answer for the frightened families crying for a reasonable explanation. Instead ABC was shown the door.

In a brief written statement Wednesday night, Barbour said, “About 90 percent of these individuals were no longer in custody, and a majority of them had been out for years.”

But that was not the case for the murderers who worked at the governor’s mansion. They had been sentenced to life.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan112012

Amid Anguish, Mississippi Judge Halts Some Pardons

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(JACKSON, Miss.) -- A Mississippi state judge has temporarily halted the release of 21 of the 200-plus inmates pardoned or given early release by former Gov. Haley Barbour as he left office.

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.

The news came as families of loved ones killed, raped or robbed by the men and women set free are speaking out against Barbour’s actions, saying they wish he had spoken to them first.

“I have a lot of feelings,” said Betty Ellis, whose daughter was killed by her estranged husband, David Gatlin, in 1993.

Gatlin received one of the 210 last-minute pardons -- nearly twice the number issued since 1988. Some of the pardons were for prisoners assigned to cook and clean at the governor’s mansion. Four of those inmates were convicted murderers.

“I’ve been mad. I can’t understand how a man that has children of his own could do this,” said Ellis, who marched to the state capital, Jackson, Miss., searching for Barbour.

On the same night Ellis’ daughter was killed in 1993, Gatlin shot Randy Walker in the head and left him for dead. Walker said Barbour’s move has given the state “a black eye.”

“This is going to make national news,” he said.

He too traveled to Jackson, where he spoke with Gov. Phil Bryant, who’d been sworn in just hours before Barbour had issued the pardons and left office.

Although Bryant told Walker that he would not have pardoned convicted murderers, he said, “The constitution gives the governor that authority and that’s his decision to make.”

That is little comfort for Walker’s wife, Crystal Walker, who told Jackson’s Clarion Ledger that both she and her husband now fear for their lives.

“On parole, he’d at least have to check in and have some supervision,” she said Sunday. “Now he could live beside us, or we could run into him at Walmart. You’re always looking over your shoulder.”

Barbour remains a popular leader in the state. He is credited with speeding up the state’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Barbour maintained that freeing those who worked at the mansion was a Mississippi tradition to show them mercy.

But Mark Mayfield, a lawyer, said the public just didn’t get it and neither did he.

“Haley has done a lot of great things,” Mayfield said Wednesday, “but I’m afraid that in the large measure this will tarnish his image as he goes forward.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan102012

Mississippi Governor Pardons 210, Including Murderers, Rapists

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(JACKSON, Miss.) -- In a stunning goodbye, exiting Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned 210 state inmates, just moments before he left office Tuesday morning.  Nearly all the orders were “full, complete and unconditional” pardons. A few were suspended sentences, mostly for medical reasons.

Mississippi’s secretary of state released the long list Tuesday afternoon.

The timing was perfect for the Barbour administration to avoid discussing the issue. Calls to Barbour’s people were answered by the staff of newly sworn-in Gov. Phil Bryant. Bryant’s office respectfully declined comment.

While it’s difficult at first glance to know the backstory of each and every pardon, what’s most striking is the number of pardons for violent crimes -- nearly a dozen for murder, and two for statutory rape. Both men and women were pardoned, most of them convicted on drug, DUI, burglary and armed robbery charges.

Barbour was already under fire for pardoning five prisoners who were assigned to cook and clean at the governor’s mansion in Jackson. Four of those men were convicted of murder, and 40-year-old David Gatlin had just been denied parole just two weeks before. In years past, the governor has explained that it is tradition to pardon prisoners assigned to the mansion.

Gatlin was sentenced to life in prison for killing his estranged wife in 1993, and shooting Randy Walker, her male friend, in the head. Walker survived, and his wife Crystal Walker told Jackson’s Clarion Ledger that they’re now both afraid for their lives.

“On parole he’d at least have to check in and have some supervision,” she said Sunday. “Now he could live beside us, or we could run into him at Walmart. You’re always looking over your shoulder.”

Barbour remains popular in Mississippi, and even critics say it was his right to issue the pardons, and he probably had his reasons. Barbour will be forever credited with helping Mississippi quickly and efficiently recover from Hurricane Katrina, in stark contrast to the recovery efforts in neighboring Louisiana.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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