Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.
UPDATE: Mississippi's attorney general says that four convicted murderers and one armed robber who received pardons from outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour last week are likely to return to prison -- the only problem is the authorities can't seem to find them.
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that none of the five inmates met a necessary filing deadline that requires them to give the public advanced notice that they were seeking a reprieve 30 days before hand. The technicality, which doesn't exist in many states, was the same reason that a judge on Thursday blocked the release of 21 other pardoned inmates. The five in question, however, had already been released at that time, and weren't included in that group.
The men -- all of whom worked worked odd jobs at the governor’s mansion while serving their sentences -- are required to check in with court authorities every 24 hours as a condition of their release. But so far, none have.
On Thursday, Attorney General Jim Hood told CNN that the men "hit the road running" after being freed and that a nation-wide manhunt may be necessary to bring them in. "We'll catch 'em," Hood said. "It's just a matter of time."
Barbour's last second pardons to roughly 200 convicts, most of whom he says had already completed their sentences, has drawn wide-spread criticism in his home state and around the nation. Most of the reprieves "seemed to have been done in haste, with information missing from the clemency warrants," msnbc.com concluded, after talking to a number of experts.
Thursday, Jan. 12: A Mississippi judge has temporarily blocked the release of 21 inmates who received full pardons or medical releases from outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour in his final days in office.
The Associated Press reports that Circuit Judge Tomie Green issued the injunction late Wednesday at the request of Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, who argued that Barbour may have violated the state constitution by extending pardons to inmates who did not follow the proper steps to have their record cleared (specifically, giving sufficient public notice they were seeking to do so).
Barbour, meanwhile, has pushed back against the mounting criticism he has faced for his decision to give reprieves to roughly 200 inmates during his final days in office, stressing that the vast majority of them had already completed their incarcerations. "The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote," the Republican said in a statement. "My decision about clemency was based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90 percent of the cases."
Wednesday, Jan. 11: Maybe we should take this as a sign that he won’t change his mind about one day running for the Republican nomination.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who at one point last year was being pushed to challenge Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination, had a busy final few days in office, handing out nearly 200 full and unconditional pardons to a group that included 14 convicted murderers. That figure, the New York Times explains, is "an unusually high number for the state, and one that is likely to inflame controversy about Mr. Barbour’s pardon practices."
The outgoing governor announced last week that he had granted pardons to four convicted murderers who had worked odd jobs at the governor’s mansion while in custody, and Tuesday's trove of an additional 193 bring the total number of full pardons Barbour granted during his two terms to 203, including 17 to convicted murders. The Associated Press has a good run down on many of those pardoned here, a list that in addition to those convicted of murder and manslaughter also includes people found guilty of drug crimes, burglary and kidnapping.
Here’s one from Tuesday's list that will jump out at NFL fans: the brother of former NFL star and Mississippi native Brett Favre. The AP:
Earnest Scott Favre had his record cleared in the 1996 death of his best friend, Mark Haverty. Favre had driven in front of a train in Pass Christian while drunk, pleaded guilty in 1997, and was sentenced to a year of house arrest followed by two years' probation.
As the Times notes, Barbour’s predecessors also issued pardons, often on their own way out the door, but never to the same degree: Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who Barbour succeeded as governor, issued only one pardon, for a man convicted of marijuana possession; Gov. Kirk Fordice, who proceeded Musgrove, issued two full pardons for convicted murderers.
Barbour has sent somewhat mixed messages on crime and punishment. He has previously taken a tough public stance on crime, but he also signed legislation while in office that made thousands of nonviolent inmates eligible for parole. He has been much more consistent when it comes to the death penalty, however: The AP reports that nine men were executed during Barbour’s time in office and that he did not grant a reprieve to anyone on death row during his eight years in office.