CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lawmaker wants to strip governor's pardon power

His sister went to school with one of Adrienne's young sons. People he knew talked about it.

"All of us living in Pascagoula in 1989 remember that day," said Jones, now a young attorney representing Pascagoula in the Legislature. "And to know that someone can shoot someone in the plain light of day and walk free less than 20 years later. The governor's action has broken open a lot of old wounds and it offends the community's sense of justice and safety."

Gov. Haley Barbour freed her killer, Michael David Graham, who was convicted of murder in 1989 and received a life sentence. Barbour suspended his sentence last week and released him from the prison system with restrictions much like those of a parolee. Graham had served more than four years as a trusty doing custodial work at the Governor's Mansion and before that had a record of hard work and good behavior.

Barbour said Thursday that if Graham performs well in the outside world, he would likely give him a pardon, which truly sets him free.

Jones called that "just a punch in the gut for the people who lived through this.

"I don't think it's good to tinker with the constitutional authority of a governor," Jones said. "But I intend to speak with the House attorneys about our legislative options to keep this from happening again."

Jones said he has a problem with a man who committed a premeditated murder being among those considered by the governor to have his sentence suspended or commuted, outside the authority of the Parole Board.

He also pointed out that since Graham's sentence has only been suspended, Barbour can revoke the action, make good by Pascagoula and put Graham back in prison.

He's got the power

Assistant Attorney General Charlie Maris, head of the criminal division, explained that the Constitution of the state of Mississippi gives the governor extensive authority in matters of prisoners' sentences.

"It's a very broad authority that he has," Maris said. "He can do pretty much what he wants to do with a sentence that's been given." [Mark Godsey]

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Executive powers are clearly defined as having the power to pardon those convicted of crimes. In certain instances, this can be a useful tool for any situation where politics or prejudice corrupt the legal system.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 30, 2008 8:02:25 AM

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