A Mississippi judge has halted the release of 21 inmates that recently received pardons by former governor Haley Barbour.
Barbour garnered national attention when he pardoned nearly 200 convicted felons during his last days in office, with a reported four of them being convicted killers. However, CNN reported that the number of murders pardoned has reached 16, including five that Barbour pardoned back in 2008.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood filed an injunction with Circuit Judge Tomie Green in an attempt to halt the process. Hood cited Mississippi state law that demands Barbour give notice of the pardons in writing 30 days prior—-an action that Hood believes Barbour failed to do.
Green granted the injunction late Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 11, leaving the remaining 21 inmates behind bars for the time being. The fate of the 21 inmates, as well as the other 178 convicts, will be determined at a Jan. 23 court hearing.
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Hood said of the former governor, “He’s tried to rule the state like Boss Hogg and he didn’t think the law applied to him.”
Hood also added that the pardons are “a slap in the face to everyone in law enforcement and Gov. Barbour should be ashamed.”
The former governor initially refrained from commenting on the pardons and when asked by the Associated Press on Tuesday how the pardons affected the victims’ families, Barbour responded, “It’s Phil Bryant’s day,” alluding to the start of the new governor’s term
However, the office of the former governor released a statement Wednesday: “Some people have misunderstood the clemency process and think that all or most of the individuals who received clemency from former Gov. Haley Barbour were in jail at the time of their release. Approximately 90 percent of these individuals were no longer in custody, and a majority of them had been out for years. The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote. My decision about clemency was based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90 percent of the cases. The 26 people released from custody due to clemency is just slightly more than one-tenth of one percent of those incarcerated.
“Half of the people who were incarcerated and released were placed on indefinite suspension due to medical reasons because their health care expenses while incarcerated were costing the state so much money. These individuals suffer from severe chronic illnesses, are on dialysis, in wheelchairs or are bedridden. They are not threats to society but if any of them commits an offense – even a misdemeanor – they’ll be returned to custody to serve out their term.
“Of the inmates released for medical reasons, a small number were placed on house arrest, and all still remain under the supervision of the Department of Corrections.”
According to reports, four of the convicted murders were apparently trustees at the governor’s mansion and pardoning trustees has long been “tradition.”
Those four trustees are David Gatlin; convicted of shooting and killing his estranged wife in 1993 as she held their infant son; Joseph Ozment, convicted in 1994 of killing a man during a robbery in McComb; Anthony McCray, convicted in 2001 of killing his wife; Charles Hooker, sentenced to life in 1992 for murder; and Nathan Kern, sentenced to life in 1982 for burglary after at least two prior convictions. According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, all four men were released Sunday evening.
Not all of the 200 now former inmates were given pardons. Some were given conditional releases due to medical illnesses. According to state records, of the 200, over a dozen were convicted of murder, manslaughter and homicide.
In addition to the five trustees that were pardoned by the former governor, NFL superstar and Southern Miss alum Bret Favre’s brother also received a full pardon. Earnest Scott Favre was convicted in 1997 for the death of his friend, Mark Haverty. According to reports, Favre drove a vehicle in front of a train while intoxicated, killing his friend on impact. Favre received one year of house arrest and two years probation.