Showing posts with label Mississippi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mississippi. Show all posts

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mississippi: Effect of a Pardon?

The Hattiesburg American reports that the State's Supreme Court is being asked "to determine whether a pardon by the governor should be grounds to wipe clean a criminal record." Rebecca Hentz, pardoned by Gov. Haley Barbour in 2012, thinks the answer is / should be "yes" and asked a County judge to "expunge her criminal record." The request was denied. Mississippi law does allow for expunction of criminal records "under limited circumstances." See full story here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mississippi: Two Years Later - 1 in 200.

The Republic (of Columbus Indiana) is reporting that 1 of the 200 "ex-prisoners" who received a late-term pardon from then-Gov. Haley Barbour in 2012 "has pleaded guilty to manslaughter after he killed another man in an exchange of gunfire."

Calhoun County District Attorney Ben Creekmore said Wayne Thurman Harris has been sentenced to five years in prison, followed by a 15-year suspended sentence, and five years of post-supervision release.

Harris was actually convicted of selling marijuana in 2001 and released in 2007. So, Barbour's pardon came 5 years afterward. The Republican casually notes, however, that Gov. Phil Bryant, "a Republican who succeeded the term-limited Barbour, has said he will not issue any pardons." See story here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Gov. Mike Beebe, Who Does He Think He Is?

Gov. Mike Beebe
Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe just doesn't get it.

The man uses the clemency power, a check and balance explicitly provided to him by his State's Constitution, on a regular basis, yes, even monthly! For some reason(s), he does not do nothing for many months in a row - like many State governors, and the President of the United States. Nor does Beebe simply wait until December to grant pardons. Why, he isn't even waiting until the last days and hours of his term to dump pardons (in the manner of Haley Barbour). This man, Beebe, is granting pardons right and left, as though the power given to him was meant to be used - not neglected for long periods of time, or abused.

Apparently, Beebe has not gotten the memo, informing him that, if he is not careful, he might be "Willie Hortoned"! Richard Nixon outlawed coddling up to criminals in the late 1960s. Who doesn't know this?

Beebe does not seem to comprehend that critics will eagerly misrepresent his decisions as having overruled the decision making of judges and juries. Why, even Governor Scott Walker (Wisconsin) gets this, and refuses to even allow the great American tradition of executive clemency to be anywhere near his State's criminal justice system. George Washington and James Madison may have coddled up to Whiskey Rebels and Baratarian Pirates, but the legendary contributor to the Republic, Scott Walker, is no such wimp.

Beebe's pardons fall so regularly, in such an even-handed manner, why, one suspects he sees clemency as a regular part of the business of being governor and that, perhaps, he may even have a systematic approach to what he is doing, maybe even a clear set of standards. How in the world can this kind focus and rationality be tolerated even as Mitt Romney brags about having pardoned no one? It is baffling.

Google away looking for stories of how Beebe's pardons have "backfired" - how he has sprung violent criminals from prisons for no apparent reason, only to see them reek havoc on society once again. Google away. It is almost like there is nothing there. Nothing whatsoever. How is Beebe getting away with this, month after month, year after year? It is downright baffling.

One has to wonder: how many other governors could be doing this?

Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe’s
Clemency Record
Month
Year
Pardons / Commutations
April
2014
10
March
2014
9
February
2014
5
January
2014
4
December
2013
7
November
2013
3
October
2013
7
September
2013
7
August
2013
3
July
2013
4
June
2013
7
May
2013
8
April
2013
6
March
2013
8
February
2013
5
January
2013
3
December
2012
7
November
2012
7
October
2012
7
September
2012
4
August
2012
5
July
2012
6
June
2012
9
May
2012
7
April
2012
7
March
2012
6
February
2012
7
January
2012
4

172

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Arkansas: 7 Pardons

Gov. Mike Beebe has announced his intent to grant pardons to seven convicts. Per usual each person "has completed his or her jail time, fulfilled all parole and probationary requirements, paid all fines and that there were no objections from law enforcement." Among the offenses addressed are: burglary, theft and possession drug paraphernalia; theft by receiving; theft and robbery; possession of methamphetamine; possession of marijuana; and delivery of marijuana. The public has 30 days to comment on the pardons before they are final.

See how really each it can be Mississippi? See story here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mississippi: Hood Asks for Reconsideration

The Sun Herald reports Attorney General Jim Hood will ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to "reconsider its ruling" regarding the validity of former Gov. Haley Barbour's late-term pardons. He (Hood) is correct to do so. It is not likely, however, that a court so prone to error will be amenable to self-correction. One would be more likely to hear a full, complete, unqualified, unequivocal acceptance of guilt and apology from an elected official!

In essence, the Court ruled that, while the Constitution of the State is controlling, it (the Court) can have no say so as to whether or not the actions of another branch are consistent with that document. In the Court's mind, to do so would violate the separation of powers doctrine. The result is the awkward emergence of a kind of eerie, pre- Marbury v. Madison, "political questions" doctrine, which was all the rage, with many, in the early 1800s.

Hood's filing simply argues the Court's position is understandably unique - for this century - and that the separation of powers doctrine does not prevent courts from constitutional review of the behavior of other branches of government.

Section 124 of the Mississippi Constitution says "no pardon shall be granted" by the governor until the convicted felon applying for the pardon publishes notice of that application for 30 days in a newspaper in or near the county where the crime was committed. Hood noted several ads were not run and sought recourse for the constitutional violation with the State's Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the Court appears closed for business. Read more here

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Osler on Barbour, Mississippi Politics

Over at Huffington Post, Mark Osler notes with disappointment, that Haley Barbour's controversial last-minute pardons "was not a prominent issue in the Mississippi campaign." This lays the foundation for the scenario where we  "express surprise" the next time "this unilateral power is used."

Says Osler:
... aren't we in part to blame for these surprises, if we never ask how a candidate would use the pardon power during the election cycle? It may well be that the candidates never articulate their views about clemency because we never really ask them to do so. The Barbour pardons should jolt us out of that complacency.

The televised debates which precede primaries and the general election are the best place to raise this issue. My plea to the moderators of those debates would be this: Once, just once, ask the candidates how they would use clemency, that great unchecked power of the executive. In the end, how a candidate would use the pardon power reveals an important aspect of character. We do not hesitate to ask someone seeking the presidency how they would use the terrible force of war; we should be just as bold when asking about the application of mercy. 
See full editorial here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mississippi: Pardons are Governor's Responsibility

USA Today and the Associated Press report the State's Supreme Court has upheld the pardons issued by former Gov. Haley Barbour during his final days in office by a 6-3 vote and a 77-page opinion (full text here) or here.

The Court argued gubernatorial pardons "may not be set aside or voided by the judicial branch." But Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood had challenged the pardons, arguing that some did not meet the requirements of the Mississippi State Constitution, which requires publication of 30 day notices in local papers. Hood did not ask the judiciary to void the governor's pardon so much as he asked the the judiciary to interpret and apply the state Constitution! But the Court cryptically ruled:
"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."
Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. was among the three justices who dissented, and seemed to have a much better view of what the case was about - and not about. As he saw it:
"Just as the governor does not have the power to pardon an individual before conviction, he does not have the power to pardon a convicted felon before the publication requirement is met,"
Justice Bubba Pierce wrote, in dissent:
"I find the constitutional notice and publication requirements of Section 124 to be mandatory. They are meant to ensure transparency in the governor's exercise of the pardoning power. A pardon issued by the governor when the notice and publications requirements have not been met, is issued without constitutional authority.

"By its decision today, this Court has not only abdicated the judiciary department's contemplated role under our theory of government, it has effectively amended Section 124 of the 1890 Mississippi Constitution back to Article 5, Section 10 of the 1868 Mississippi Constitution. By the written word, the majority has turned the constitutional clock back to 1868."
See story here. and here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mississippi: 18 Attempts!

From WXVT 15:

"PARDONS - At least 18 bills and state constitutional amendment that would have prohibited the governor from pardoning people or restricted that clemency power died in various committees. Some measures would have required notice to victims, law enforcement authorities and prosecutors. Others would have barred people convicted of certain crimes from serving as trusties."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mississippi: Oh Lordy!

In a classic case of burning down the house to roast the pig, State Sen. Michael Watson (R) has filed a constitutional amendment aimed at  completely overhauling the State's clemency practices. It is reported that the amendment would create “tiered” system (because we all know that voters crave those!) that would "forbid pardons for the most violent crimes, such as capital murder, murder, capital rape and violence against children, unless there were clear evidence, such as DNA, of a wrongful conviction." A second tier of crimes could be addressed with pardon if the State Parole Board "recommended it or a mistake had been made." Finally, for non-violent crimes, the governor would "retain carte blanche pardon powers."

All of this is, of course, in response to Haley Barbour's last-minute pardon spree. Watson is, apparently OK with last-minute pardon sprees which involve non-violent crimes - which would include most of Barbour's pardons. Which is to say, the amendment would, after all of its tier-making and discriminating between offenses, not at all address most of what Barbour did. Great.

Other amendments have been filed which would prohibit a governor from granting a pardon within the last 90 days he or she is in office or require the State Parole Board approval before any felony crimes could be pardoned. See full story here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Brown Investigates Barbour Further

Representative Cecil Brown is specking up re Haley Barbour's last-minute pardons and what he says is well worth noting. Among other things, Brown says:

* At my request, the staff of the legislative Performance and Expenditure Review Committee (PEER) reviewed the files of those who were pardoned. The files for five of those who were pardoned could not be located.

* The files for 10 of those pardoned contained no application for pardon. (Such an application is required by parole board rules.)

* Sixteen applicants were granted pardons in spite of negative recommendations by the Parole Board. Thirteen of those sixteen received a unanimous “no” vote by the Board.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Barbour Stunts: The Solution

Had the honor of publishing an editorial in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger today. There were just a few changes made to the original, but nothing major. Here is the core of what we see as the solution to Haley-Barbour-like stunts:
... Mississippi legislators should also take note of what Alexander Hamilton says in Federalist 74 regarding Haley Barbour-like pardoning. Hamilton argues the executive will rightly exercise "scrupulousness and caution" in granting pardons, and do so with “circumspection" if there is "dread" of being “accused of weakness or connivance" and the executive is in "apprehension of suspicion or censure" for pardons which are considered "injudicious" or "affected." Which is to say, the best check against the abuse of the pardon power is, and always will be, constant public scrutiny.

... Mississippi gubernatorial candidates need to be asked about their view of pardons. Do they intend to grant them? If so, how often? Or, how little? And why? They also need to be questioned about last-minute pardons and what factors they would consider in granting pardons. Candidates should explain their view of the State's Parole Board, how important they consider its work and whether or not they will generally follow its recommendations? Such scrutiny would, of course, provide a public record, which would allow for additional scrutiny, the entire term.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mississippi: Ledger on Barbour, Court Hearing

Mississippi's Clarion Ledger has expressed its own opinion of Haley Barbour's 11th-hour pardons. According to the Ledger, Barbour's actions were "clearly" a "mistake." And,
At best, it represented poor judgment; at worst, it was an arrogant, irresponsible use of power.
The Ledger notes that there was no "serious vetting of the cases" and there was "disregard of the victims' families." In addition, there was "disregard of the constitutional provisions for public notice." The Ledger also believes there were some "bad decisions" in the batch (such as the pardon of a man "who killed his wife while she held a baby and a Jackson socialite who was responsible for the deaths of two young doctors in an alcohol-related crash").

Most interestingly, the Ledger expresses its view of yesterday's court hearing and concludes:
From the court hearing, it appears case law supports the high court not interfering with authority of other branches of government. There are difficult legal issues, and during the oral arguments justices probed with thoughtful and insightful questions. Despite the offensiveness of Barbour's actions, to undermine the executive authority would be more offensive. The people of Mississippi might disagree with Barbour, and it is safe to say most do, but the constitution gave him that clear authority.
And the Ledger thinks it just might be "important" for Mississippians to "look past the bad decisions of one governor to the need for power of a governor." And the Supreme Court "should not undermine that authority." With this, we generally agree. See full editorial here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mississippi: Pardons in Court

The Jackson Free Press is reporting on the the Mississippi Supreme Court's consideration of arguments from Attorney General Jim Hood, "lawyers for former Gov. Haley Barbour and minimum-security inmates who worked at the governor's mansion." Hood, of course, convinced a County judge to temporarily block hundreds of pardons and commutations issued by Barbour just as he left office.

Tom Fortner, lawyer for four former governor's mansion trustys, argued the governor can reach into prison and pardon whomever he wants and that the court did not "have any judicial review" if the pardons are "valid on their face." Several justices have "asked Hood about his office's involvement in securing the pardons."  Chief Justice William Waller Jr. said no decision will be made today. See full story here.

Bernard Goldberg's Unmerciful Ignorance

In this wildly unimpressive piece, Bernard Goldberg tries his hand at analysis of the clemency power which the Federalist Papers deemed so important to our system of criminal justice. Goldberg is no clemency expert, or even a student of the topic. He just knows what he reads in the newspapers, when freakish and rare "pardon scandals" attract the attention of everyone else. Imagine the quality that is about to follow!

First, Goldberg starts a ripping on Haley Barbour - thanks, Haley, you have done the pardon power so much good! Of course, this blog has done quite a bit of Haley Barbour ripping - but always at the expense of Haley Barbour, never at the expense of the pardon power. Golberg says "when Governor Haley Barbour pardoned a number of murderers on his last day in office, he was acting in the proud tradition of several other political hacks."

The impressive list that follows? Four names. Bill Clinton, Michael Dukakis, Mike Huckabee and George Ryan. Yep, no mention of Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush or Reagan. Go figure.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mississippi: Enter Supreme Court

The Chicago Tribune reports that the Mississippi State Supreme Court will hold a hearing on February 9 in order to decide "whether a lower court has the authority to block pardons issued by former Governor Haley Barbour, including some to convicted murderers." Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says more than 100 of the pardons "did not meet a state constitutional requirement that notice of the application for a pardon be published for 30 days." Barbour, on the other hand, says Hood is "trying to score political points." See story here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Barbour: Publication of Pardons "Doesn't Matter"

The Jackson Clarion Ledger reports that Tom Fortner, an attorney for four of the five pardoned criminals who worked as trusties at the Governor's Mansion, has filed a petition asking the Mississippi State Supreme Court to give immediate consideration the State attorney general's attempt to overturn most of Haley Barbour's last-minute pardons. More specifically, Fortner aims to have the Court decide that it actually does not have the power to review any of Barbour's pardons. Fortner calls it a "separation of powers" issue.

Attorney General Jim Hood, however, reads the following in the State's constitution:
In all criminal and penal cases, excepting those of treason and impeachment, the Governor shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons, to remit fines, and in cases of forfeiture, to stay the collection until the end of the next session of the Legislature, and by and with the consent of the senate to remit forfeitures. In cases of treason he shall have power to grant reprieves, and by and with consent of the senate, but may respite the sentence until the end of the next session of the Legislature; but no pardon shall be granted before conviction; and in cases of felony, after conviction no pardon shall be granted until the applicant therefor shall have published for thirty days, in some newspaper in the county where the crime was committed, and in case there be no newspaper published in said county, then in an adjoining county, his petition for pardon, setting forth therein the reasons why such pardon should be granted.
and questions whether or not publish a notice in the cases was handled properly. Barbour himself says:
"Jim Hood's guy failed to do the publication on time, which by the way doesn't matter under our constitution. And now Jim Hood is suing to take these people's liberty away because his guy didn't do what he said he was going to do."
Hood, however, says Assistant Attorney General David Scott was only involved in publishing the pardon notices because the governor ordered him to do so - after it was already too late. See full story here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Barbour's Mercy: The Stench Grows

From the New York Times:
A close look at some of the clemency applications of nearly 200 of the other felons who were pardoned reveal that a significant share contained written appeals from members of prominent Mississippi families, major Republican donors or others from the higher social strata of Mississippi life.
Is any thinking person really surprised? See story here.

In our view, there is additional "breaking news." PardonPower spoke with one of the authors of the Times article linked above and it was his distinct impression that "most" of the recommendations made by the State's Parole Board were forwarded to Haley Barbour in the last six months of the administration! Unfortunately, for now, we don't know if "most" here means closer to 51 percent, or closer to 90 percent. But, regardless, this news creates several layers of complexity to both Barbour's behavior and normative analysis of the general situation in Mississippi.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Brief Report on Thomson Reuters Mississippi Prison Status Data

EDITOR Because the Editor of this blog has a keen interest in empirical study of the pardon power, state and federal, it seemed worthwhile to try to look past some previous negative experiences with authors and ask the statisticians at the University of Georgia about their recent analysis of clemency in Mississippi. As expected, they were both very generous with their time and quite open about the details of their effort. So, an additional, brief summary was requested, and they have graciously provided it here (below). The Editor is quite thankful and has renewed faith in the collegiality of scholars.

Prepared for the UGA SCC by Dr. Kim Love-Myers and Dr. Jaxk Reeves:

Analysis: 


We were provided with the data below, regarding the current prison status of 25,480 individuals in Mississippi.

Of the 222 on the pardons list: 142 are white
                                                   68 are black
                                                   12 are unidentified

Of a total population of 25,258: 8572 are white
                                                 16386 are black
                                                    222 are Hispanic
                                                      31 are Native American
                                                      37 are Asian
                                                      10 could not be identified

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Barbour: Incredibly Stupid? Or Simply a Clumsy Liar?

Anyone who knows anything about the exercise of the pardon power, state or federal, knows that THE most common misconception about pardons has to do with their impact. More specifically, it is often thought that pardons routinely spring violent and hardened criminals straight out of prison, over-turning the considered judgement of judges and juries. This misconception is no mystery at all - at least not to any thinking person. It springs from the weight of attention given to the freakishly few pardons which very nearly fit that kind of imagery.

But, in fact, as every person who knows anything about the exercise of the pardon power, state or federal, knows, the typical pardon is given to someone who has committed a minor, non-violent crime, years (often decades ago). They have served their time (if there ever was any), taken care of all fines (if there ever were any) and the degree to which they have been law-abiding since the offense has been examined by a board, a commission or the FBI. The pardon, thus, does not spring anyone from prison. It merely restores their civil rights. the right to vote, to serve on a jury, to hold public office, to travel without restrictions, to own a hunting rifle, etc.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mississippi: Cause for Celebration, In Spite of ...

One of our several complaints about former governor Haley Barbour's last-minute pardon rush was the fact that it cast a cloud of suspicion over the clemency process (as it always does and as it very well should) and well-deserving recipients of mercy as well. Today's Boston Globe gives some attention to such persons. When 61-year old Vietnam veteran Thomas Ailes heard that he had been pardoned for a marijuana conviction in the 1970s, he drove his truck to the capital to pick up the pardon himself! Said Ailes, "I'm going to have about 10 copies of this bad boy made. And this one here is getting framed."

The Globe reports "most" of Barbour's pardons were for "lesser crimes, some dating back decades."

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