Thursday, March 8, 2012
The Associated Press reports:
The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the pardons issued by former Gov. Haley Barbour during his final days in office, including several that freed convicted killers.
The Republican pardoned 198 people before finishing his second term Jan. 10, including four convicted murderers and a robber who worked as inmate trusties at the Governor's Mansion. Of those pardoned, 10 were in jail at the time.
Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood challenged the pardons. Hood argued before the Supreme Court on 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.
In a 6-3 opinion, the justices wrote "we are compelled to hold that — in each of the cases before us — it fell to the governor alone to decide whether the Constitution's publication requirement was met."
The 10 people who were incarcerated when Barbour pardoned them had the most at stake. Among those, five have been held in prison on a temporary restraining order pending the outcome of Hood's legal challenge. It was not immediately clear whether they would not be released.
The other five had already been released by the time Hood persuaded a lower court judge to issue that restraining order.
At the heart of the pardon dispute was Section 124 of the Mississippi Constitution, which says "no pardon shall be granted" by the governor until the convicted felon applying for the pardon publishes notice of that application for 30 days in a newspaper in or near the county where the crime was committed.
Hood contended that if ads weren't run in daily papers every day for 30 days, or weekly newspapers once a week for five weeks, the pardons weren't valid.
Barbour, who once considered a 2012 White House run, was limited to two terms as governor. In addition to the pardons, he also granted medical release and conditional clemency to some inmates, but they weren't required to give public notice.
The opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)