Miss. Supreme Court Upholds Barbour’s Pardons on 6-3 VoteBy Daniel Cherry | Published 08 Mar 2012 09:03pm |
The Mississippi Supreme Court says all of former Governor Haley Barbour's pardons are allowed to stand. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how the ruling is viewed by some as a victory for separation of powers...others see it as an injustice to victims.
The state high court, in a six to three opinion said pardon power lies exclusively with the Governor and it's not up to the courts to police other branches of government. Matt Steffey is a constitutional law specialist with the Mississippi College School of Law.
"The Governor can pardon for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all. Heck, he doesn't have to tell us why he's pardoning somebody. He could take the worst offender out of Parchman (Penitentiary) and pardon him tomorrow without any explanation to the public."
Mississippi's Attorney General Jim Hood had challenged the 198 pardons on the grounds many of the convicts hadn't complied with section 124 of the state constitution. It states, a felon must file petition for pardon for 30 days in a newspaper in the county where the crime was committed before being granted a pardon. The court says it's not appropriate for the judiciary to overturn a pardon based on those claims. Tom Fortner represented four of the Governor's Mansion trusties pardoned by Barbour.
"They understand. I understand that there are a lot of people that are going to feel hurt by this decision. For that I'm sorry, but I still feel like it's the right decision."
Most receiving pardons had already completed their sentences, but victims' rights advocates disagree with the ruling. Attorney General Jim Hood in a statement quoted Supreme Court Justice Mike Randolph, who said in his dissenting opinion, "Today’s decision is a stunning victory for some lawless convicted felons, and an immeasurable loss for the law-abiding citizens of our State."
Those on the other side of the argument see it as a victory for the Constitution. Former Governor Haley Barbour said in a statement, "This was not only about the power of the pardon or even the power of the office, but about the ability of a governor to grant mercy."
The Mississippi Supreme Court is the court of last resort in this case, meaning there can be no federal appeal as it's strictly a Mississippi issue. Attorney General Jim Hood says he's going to push for a constitutional amendment that would enforce the 30 day notification period.
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