Judge grants Miss. AG's injunction to stop pardons

Jessica M. Karmasek Jan. 13, 2012, 9:45am



JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's request for an injunction to stop outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour's most recent pardons has been granted.

Hood's office said it filed a request with the Hinds County Circuit Court Thursday afternoon.

The attorney general requested the injunction to stop the release of nearly 200 pardoned criminals until it can be determined that they met the requirements of Section 124 of the Mississippi Constitution.

Section 124 states that no pardon shall be granted until the applicant has published for 30 days their request for pardon.

In her ruling late Thursday, Judge Tomie Green said she granted Hood's request because "there is a substantial likelihood of success on his claim that the subject pardons violated Section 124 of the Mississippi Constitution."

She added, "There is a sufficient threat of irreparable injury should the subject individuals be released based upon the purported gubernatorial pardons."

Hood said his office is looking closely at each pardon, but has already found cases where the requirement was not met.

"For the safety of all our residents and for the sanctity of our Constitution, we had to request the injunction. Each of these individuals will have a day in court to show that they have met the necessary requirements. If they have not, then we will ask the court will void those pardons," he said in a statement.

Hood, who said his office will move "expeditiously" with its investigation into each pardon, called Barbour's actions an "absolute tragedy for the victims involved."

"It is inconceivable to me that the governor would take this action and would jeopardize the safety of the people he was sworn to protect," he said.

This wouldn't be the first time Hood, a Democrat, has come out against Barbour, a Republican. Their relationship has been on shaky ground for some time.

In a statement Wednesday, Barbour stood by his actions, saying some people have simply "misunderstood" the clemency process.

Many of the criminals pardoned had already been released, he noted.

"Approximately 90 percent of these individuals were no longer in custody, and a majority of them had been out for years," Barbour said.

"The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote."

He said his decision regarding clemency was based on 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 1 percent of those incarcerated," Barbour explained.

"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 those inmates released for medical reasons, the outgoing governor said a "small number" were placed on house arrest, and all still remain under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections.

Barbour's last day in office was Tuesday.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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