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Barbour pardons hurt families, tarnished image

Former Gov. Haley Barbour baffled friendsand foes alike with his decision during his final days in office topardon or otherwise relieve sentences for more than 200 convictedfelons.

    Democrats, as expected, jumped at the chance to attack a popularoutgoing Republican governor and called for legislation to limitfuture chief executives’ pardoning powers.

    Republicans were perplexed over why Barbour would bring on suchcontroversy by helping so many felons, including some convicted ofmurder or manslaughter as the last act on a very successfulgovernorship, tarnishing the leadership image that shone brightlyin the wakes of tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina and the Gulfoil spill.

    Political ramifications aside, the especially troubling aspect ofthis pardon episode is the fact that laws requiring public noticeswere blatantly not followed.

    The Mississippi Constitution – the document that gives governorsthe right to grant pardons – also states that no pardon can begranted unless notice of the impending reprieve is made public for30 days prior to the issuance of the pardon. The notice must bepublished in a newspaper located in the county where the convictionoccurred.

    However, it appears in many if not most of the final-day pardons,those public notices were either not run in the required timeperiod or ignored all together.

      Attorney General Jim Hood, aDemocrat, has seized on this lack of public notice as a primarytool for challenging Barbour’s pardons. A Hinds County judge thisweek issued an injunction preventing the release of 21 inmates whowere impacted by the governor’s actions.

    Three individuals convicted in Lincoln County were among the morethan 200 pardoned by Barbour. One individual followed the properprocedures, another missed the 30-day deadline and the thirdignored the publication requirement completely.

    While fulfilling the publication process is the responsibility ofthe individual, the responsibility of verification lies with theGovernor’s office. It’s a simple procedure that involves a Proof ofPublication supplied by the publishing newspaper.

    Victims of felonies deserve notification of any pending changes inthe status of the individual who was convicted of committing thefelony; the publication requirement allows such notification. Hadthose public notices been published as required, the hullabaloo ofthe past week would have never happened.

    For family members of victims of violent crimes like murder, havingthe person convicted of the crime pardoned simply because hedisplayed good behavior while incarcerated or worked at theGovernor’s Mansion is a hard enough pill to swallow.

    Having to learn of a pardon that may not have followed properprocedures only compounds the misery and tarnishes an otherwiseastonishingly productive governorship.