Supreme Court Rules on Pardons

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled that pardons issued by former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour are valid.

The former governor pardoned 198 people before finishing his second term Jan. 10. Those included four convicted murderers and a robber who worked as inmate trusties at the Governor's Mansion. Of
those pardoned, only 10 were in jail at the time.

Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood challenged the pardons.

Hood argued before the Supreme Court Feb. 9 that some pardons didn't meet the requirements of the Mississippi Constitution, which says people seeking pardons must publish notices for 30 days in a newspaper.

Hood has contended the trusties and about 165 others didn't meet that requirement.

Attorneys for Barbour and some of pardon recipients had argued the governor's pardon power can't be challenged.

Hood released a statement after reviewing the 70-page pardon ruling.

Attorney General Jim Hood statement:
“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. 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. Our lawyers were unanimous that the 30-day publication requirement in Section 124 of the Constitution was clear that the Governor had no authority to grant a pardon unless the records showed that the 30-day requirement was met. It is truly unfortunate that a majority of the Court has stricken from our Constitution a right to notice of a pardon reserved by the people of Mississippi in our 1890 Constitution. I intend to seek an initiative to amend Section 124 of our Constitution to make it very clear that the judicial branch is responsible for enforcing the 30-day notification period in the future. I am calling on all our victims groups, law enforcement and other volunteers to help me obtain the necessary signatures to place the measure on the ballot."

House Democratic Caucus Leader Bobby Moak also issued the following statement:
“This week marked another sad chapter in the Republican leadership’s ongoing failure to fix Mississippi’s pardon system. The releases earlier this year fly in the face of the justice system and create real public safety concerns for Mississippi families. Now, Republicans have compounded this problem by killing measures that would add accountability to the process. My heart goes out to the victims’ families and I want them to know that we will not rest until we achieve a more just and safe pardon system for Mississippi.”

Barbour and his attorney released statements on the ruling.

Statement from Haley Barbour:
“I’m grateful for the decision issued today by the Supreme Court of Mississippi upholding the Governor’s constitutional authority to exercise clemency. 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. As I’ve stated from the beginning, I recognize and respect the natural feelings of victims and their families and I know this has been difficult for many of them. That is why pardons are always subject to a lot of criticism and 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.”

Statement from Charles E. Griffin, Attorney, Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens & Cannada, PLLC, lead counsel for Former Governor Haley Barbour:
“Today’s Mississippi Supreme Court decision on the pardons case, including the majority opinion, concurrences and dissents, is collectively one of the most thoughtful and scholarly opinions I have ever read from any court. Personally, I am honored to have been involved in this matter.
I want to again thank the entirety of the Mississippi Supreme Court for not only its prompt, deliberative and careful consideration of this controversial case, but also for its willingness to allow former Governor Barbour to be heard on these important issues, both by a friend of the court brief and by his counsel at oral argument.”

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