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Miss. Supreme Court Upholds Former Gov. Barbour's Pardons

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R).
Rogelio V. Solis

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled today that Gov. Haley Barbour's controversial pardons are valid. Barbour handed out about 200 pardons on his way out of office in January and about 10 of them had been challenged in court.

As we reported, the pardons which caused the most concern were four handed to convicted killers who had worked at the governor's mansion: "David Gatlin, convicted of fatally shooting his estranged wife in 1993 as she held her baby and wounding her friend; Joseph Ozment, convicted in 1994 of killing a man during a robbery; Anthony McCray, convicted in 2001 of killing his wife; Charles Hooker, sentenced to life in 1992 for murder," the AP reported at the time.

The Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood challenged the pardons, saying they didn't meet the constitutional demand for notices to be published in newspapers.

The Supreme Court didn't agree. The AP reports:

"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.

"Hood's temporary restraining order had required the trusties to check in with corrections officials every 24 hours and show up for court hearings. One of the trusties, however, Joseph Ozement moved to Laramie, Wyo., and refused to come back."

The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledgerreports that any of the inmates who were still in prison will be released within 48 hours.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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