JACKSON, Miss. â€“ Â The MississippiÂ Supreme CourtÂ on Thursday upheld the pardons issued by former Gov.Â Haley BarbourÂ during his final days in office, including those of four convicted killers and a robber who had worked at the Governor’s Mansion.
Barbour, a Republican who once considered running for president, pardoned 198 people before finishing his second term Jan. 10. Most of the people pardoned had served their sentences years ago, but crime victims were outraged and created a furor that lasted for weeks.
Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood challenged the pardons based on the argument that many of them didn’t follow a requirement in the state Constitution to publish notices in newspapers for 30 days.
In their 6-3 opinion, the Mississippi Supreme Court wrote “we are compelled to hold that — in each of the cases before us — it fell to the governor alone to decide whether the Constitution’s publication requirement was met.” The court also said it couldn’t overturn the pardons because of the Constitution’s separation of powers of the different branches of government.
“In this decision, the Supreme Court has reaffirmed more than a century of settled law in our state. But 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,” Barbour said in a statement.
Hood’s spokeswoman said he was reviewing the ruling and would comment later.
The Supreme Court’s ruling hit crime victims hard.
“I hope Haley Barbour and the Supreme Court justices can sleep at night,” said Joann Martin, a probation officer from Fort Worth, Texas, whose sister was killed by one of the pardoned trusties.
She thanked Hood for trying to send the killer back to jail.
“God has the final say and that’s all I have to say about it,” she said.
Barbour’s statement said he understands “the natural feelings of victims and their families” and recognizes that pardons are generally unpopular.
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