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

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mississippi: Barbour In Focus

As Gov. Haley Barbour prepares to leave office, Geoff Pender of the Sun Herald is focusing on the potential last-minute use of clemency. To date, Pender says Barbour’s rare use of clemency appears "in line with other recent Mississippi governors in number and frequency." On the other hand, he use of the power has also "brought him many political slings and arrows."
He’s been criticized at times for not granting leniency to convicts, and for some of those he did spring. Though he may have been frugal in granting clemency, several of those he has released had been convicted of violent crimes and given long or life sentences. [Pundits] noted of six killers he had released, four had killed their girlfriends or ex-wives. One, whom he granted a 90-day furlough, had been convicted of kidnapping, robbing, beating and raping a woman in Starkville ... 
So, Mississippi College law professor Matt Steffe asks, reasonably enough, “Aren’t there people serving time for nonviolent crimes, who could be considered without doing further injury to families who have lost women in their lives?"

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pardons: The Unimportant Topic that Makes / Breaks Candidates

We often receive e-mails and comments which essentially make the same point: Who cares about pardons? There are so many other important things about which to be concerned. Why should anyone bother so much about the circumstances of criminals? 

Presidential election campaigns must be very odd things for persons of this mindset to behold. Consider the last go-round, in 2008:

Hillary Clinton was asked about her husband's questionable pardons when it was observed that several recipients were making donations to her campaign. When she badgered Barack Obama about his relationship with Bill Ayers, in a Nationally televised debate, Obama bluntly reminded Mrs. Clinton that her husband pardoned several of Ayers' associates in the Weather Underground. Obama was asked whether or not he would consider a pardon for Tony Rezko. Rudolph Giuliani was asked if he would pardon Bernard Kerik. Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was asked if she would pardon Senator Ted Stevens. Vice presidential candidate Joe Biden said he was not to keen on the idea of a pardon for Jonathan Pollard. Every Republican candidate was asked, during the debates, how they felt about a potential pardon for Scooter Libby. And every Democratic candidate had something to say about the eventual commutation of sentence he received from George W. Bush. Mitt Romney downright bragged about the fact that he never granted pardons. Mike Huckabee was roundly criticized for granting too many.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mississippi: Denial !

The Clarion Ledger reports Gov. Haley Barbour has denied 52 year old Benny Joe Stevens' request for clemency. Stevens is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection tonight. Stevens was convicted of killing his ex-wife, her husband and her 10-year old son in 1999. He says that, on the day of the murders, he was in a traffic accident and that he does not remember much. The Ledger also offers:
For his last meal, Stevens has requested four whole fried catfish, eight hushpuppies, French fries, coleslaw, hickory smoked barbeque beef ribs (wet with sauce also on the side), hot peach cobbler, a half gallon of Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream, two 20-ounce Cokes and a sliced, whole red tomato.
See story here.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Conditional Pardons, eh?

With all of the chatter re Haley Barbour's conditional pardon of the Scott sisters, it is a great time for interested readers to review Harold Krent's fine work entitled Presidential Powers (2005), a work, in part spring-boarded by a 2001 California Law Review article by Krent on conditional pardons.

Many presidential pardons and commutations have been conditioned upon the recipient leaving the country - usually “soon” but, in some instances, “forever.” And, in most of those instances, "forever" constituted a longer period of time than their original sentence!

Curiously, many acts of clemency have required the individuals to simply leave the Washington, D.C. area. Benjamin Ahley was pardoned in 1853 on the condition that he leave Washington until he was twenty-one years of age. In 1861, Charles de Villies was asked to leave the same area, but only for a period of five years. Jesus Pena (1920) was released on the condition that he be deported to Mexico. Victoria Pool (1877) was pardoned on the condition that she leave Washington and “be removed” to North Carolina. Samuel Edgar McIlhenny was allowed to leave prison in 1922, but only if he left with his mother. And, she had to take his little butt right back to Dallas.

Mississippi: Barbour's Statement on the Scott Sisters

“Today, I have issued two orders indefinitely suspending the sentences of Jamie and Gladys Scott. In 1994, a Scott County jury convicted the sisters of armed robbery and imposed two life sentences for the crime. Their convictions and their sentences were affirmed by the Mississippi Court of Appeals in 1996.

To date, the sisters have served 16 years of their sentences and are eligible for parole in 2014. Jamie Scott requires regular dialysis, and her sister has offered to donate one of her kidneys to her. The Mississippi Department of Corrections believes the sisters no longer pose a threat to society. Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott’s medical condition creates a substantial cost to the State of Mississippi.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mississippi: Suspension of Sentence

Gov. Haley Barbour has been considering clemency on behalf of Gladys and Jamie Scott who have served almost two decades in prison after being found guilty of armed robbery by a jury. The convictions and the sentences were both upheld on appeal. In addition, the State's Parole Board refused to recommend a pardon or commutation of sentence. Much has been made of the fact that their heist netted about $11, but we are not aware of any statute which allows armed robbery if there is no profit!

Then again, Barbour did not grant clemency in the traditional sense. Instead he "issued two orders indefinitely suspending" the sentences of the Scott sisters. In his explanation for the decision, Barbour noted one sister "requires regular dialysis" and her "medical condition creates a substantial cost to the State of Mississippi." See story here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mississippi: Call for Pardon

Jamie and Gladys Scott were each convicted of two counts of armed robbery and sentenced to two life sentences after they were were found guilty of luring two men down a road, on Christmas Eve 1993, where three young assailants used a shotgun to beat them in the head and rob them of what amounted to only $11. The three young men admitted their guilt and were sentenced to several months in prison. But the Scott sisters, who were 19- and 20-year single mothers at the time (one pregnant), refused to admit their guilt, forced a trial and a jury found them guilty. Today, they continue to claim they are innocent!

But NAACP President Ben Jealous says he cannot find another case anywhere in the country where a sentence so harsh was given "such a small crime" and calls it a "hideous event in the history of Mississippi." Unable to contain himself, Jealous also says, "the lives of two Black women are valued at little more than 11 dollars" in the state of Mississippi. Apparently the heads of the innocent victims are worth even less!

Jealous and others are calling on Governor Haley Barbour (R) to grant a pardon. One of the sisters is said to be suffering from kidney failure. The prosecutor in the case (now retired) also supports clemency. On the other hand, the Mississippi State Supreme Court has refused hear an appeal filed by the sisters. A clemency request has already been rejected, by the previous Governor, Ronnie Musgrove (D). The sisters will be eligible for parole in 2014. See story here and here and here and here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

MIssissippi: Call for Pardon!

The Clarion Ledger reports "Civil rights leader" Charles Evers plans to ask President Barack Obama to pardon former Hinds County prosecutor and judge Bobby DeLaughter. As Evers puts it, "All he (DeLaughter) did was lie." Or, more fully, he explains, "What man can tell me he hasn't lied? You're telling me he should spend 18 months in prison for that?"

DeLaughter stepped down as a Hinds County circuit judge, in July, and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a corruption investigation involving multimillionaire and former lawyer Dickie Scruggs. More specifically, he admitted that he lied to FBI agents when he said he had two conversations with former Hinds County District Attorney Ed Peters about a pending lawsuit against Scruggs, when he actually had dozens. See full story here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Speaking of Bizarre Pardons!

Over at Slate, Radley Balko argues it is high time that the recent round of scrutiny directed toward Mike Huckabee (for the commutation of sentence granted to Maurice Clemmons) be shifted toward "one of Huckabee's possible competitors for the [2012 GOP presidential] nomination, Haley Barbour" (Governor of Mississippi). What follows is a wildly entertaining description of Barbour's "bizarre" pardon record.

In the last two years, Barbour has "pardoned, granted clemency to, or suspended the sentences" of at least five convicted murderers "four of whom killed their wives or girlfriends" and he has pardoned a man "convicted and sentenced to life for robbing and murdering an elderly man." The common denominator among them: participation in a program that allowed them to do odd jobs around the Governor's mansion. [Shotgun-totting deputy wearing permanent frown and dark sun glasses enter stage right]. At the same time, Balko reports, Barbour has been downright peculiar in his failure to use the pardon power to further exonerate individuals who have been declared innocent via DNA testing. [Sweaty prisoner in dirty "wife beater" carrying pot full of hard boiled eggs enter stage right]

What does it all mean? Balko argues governors too often "bestow redemption on guilty people who claim that they're rehabilitated" and this "converts the pardon from a check on an imperfect system to an almost religious capacity for conferring forgiveness, for reasons often more personal than related to public policy."And that is why "Barbour is handing out mercy to killers while paying no heed to the staggeringly flawed system operating right under his nose." Indeed, one might call it "a failure to communicate."

See entire article here

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mississippi: Reform?

Rep. Brandon Jones (D) is committed to reforming the governor's pardon power and currently has three different bills in committees to that end. If Jones has it his way, the governor would be required to hold a hearing with the Sheriff and District Attorney in the county where a crime was committed, before the final pardoning decision. A parole board would also issue an opinion on pardon petitions before the Governor makes a decision. Finally, Jones would have the state constitution amended to prevent the Governor from pardoning people convicted of violent crimes.

State Senator Michael Watson (R) also has three bills in committees addressing the pardon power. His would disallow convicted murderers from serving as "trusties" in the governor's mansion. He would also amend the State constitution to limit which types of criminals the governor can pardon and force a hearings in towns where crimes are committed before pardoning decisions are made.

The deadline for all such legislation to pass committee is Tuesday. See story here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mississippi: Reform? or Just Change?

State Representative. Brandon Jones, (D) has submitted legislation aimed at changing the way pardons are granted in the state. The first would make it impossible for a governor to grant pardons or reprieves to those convicted of murder or capital murder. The second would require governors to (1) hold public hearings on clemency decisions where the crime occurred and (2) contact the district attorney and sheriff for that county before granting a pardon. Jones represents the district where Michael David Graham was released from prison this year. Graham shot and killed his wife almost 20 years ago. Says Jones, "It is time to take away the get-out-of-jail-free card from these criminals." See article here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mississippi: Little Support for Limitations on Pardon Power

Rep. Brandon Jones is putting together with an aim at restricting the governor's power to pardon, commute or suspend sentences, but The Mississippi Press reports "the Pascagoula Democrat has apparently drawn no support from fellow local lawmakers." Sen. Tommy Moffatt says such decisions are "the governor's constitutional right." Rep. Frank Hamilton says clemency is "one of the executive powers the governor is entitled to" and "whittling away at it" would make the governor "just another legislator." Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula says Jones is "trying to legislate emotionally." Rep. Hank Zuber says it will be "extremely difficult, if not impossible" to pass such a law. See story here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mississippi: The Governor Explains

The Newton Record has provided the responses of Governor Haley Barbour to reporters at a fair. The exchange included this:

Press: What about pardoning Michael David Graham, what about the family, should there have been some contact?

Barbour: There was. Fordice pardoned or suspended sentences for about 32 people, a large number of trustees that worked at the mansion. Musgrove about twenty six, including a number that worked at mansion. Since 1941, the servants at the governor's mansion were all trustees. Since I have been there, they have all been murderers, from the state penal system. The Department Of Corrections decides who can be a trustee and recommends to the Department of public safety who should work at mansion. The governor has nothing to do with it. But the DOC sends us trustees who have been trustees in the penal system before they are ever considered to be trustees at mansion. The trustee works hard to get there, has a really clean record. It gives them a chance to have a second chance. Unlike most in history I am serving a second term. There have only been two governors to serve two consecutive terms. When I got here I told the DPS, when they were interviewing the inmates, if they did their job and stayed out of trouble, had a blemish free record, at the end of my first term, I would pardon them. And that was the case. We first had to publish a public notice, write family of victim, write judge and write the prosecutor. I did hear from the district attorney and sheriff of Jackson county on Graham. Instead of pardoning him, I gave him a revocable suspended sentence.

I can’t take back a commutation. If I commute your sentence, I can’t put you back in jail, I gave him a revocable suspension, which means if he gets in trouble, doesn’t have a job or goes back to Jackson County, I can revoke him and he will have to go back to the penitentiary. Graham committed an awful crime, but he has spent 20 years paying and does literally have a blemish free record. So, I am treating just like I told them I would. If they stood up to the test, I will do what governors have done for decades. I would give them a second chance. I hope Michael Graham will go out and work hard and five years from now I will get to pardon him.
See full exchange here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mississippi: Governor Takes More Heat

The Sun Herald reports State Representative Brandon Jones (D) has informed Gov. Haley Barbour (R) that "people in his legislative district are 'on fire' about the release of convicted killer Michael David Graham." Jones is also drafting legislation to deal with what he sees as a clemency problem in the State.

One [bill] would be to change the constitutional authority of the governor and restrict him from commuting, suspending or pardoning the sentence of a murderer. Another was to declare that anyone convicted of murder would not be eligible to become a trusty, and the third was before a governor could release a murderer, he would be required to contact the sheriff and district attorney where the murder was committed and also hold a public hearing.
Jones calls it all "kind of the opening salvo." See story here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Mississippi: Traaaa-dition!

In this story, oddly entitled "Pardons Common for Mississippi Governors," it is explained that it has "long, long been the custom and tradition" in Mississippi for governors (or, at least the last three) "to either commute, or suspend, or in some cases even pardon those who had served as a trusty in the Governor's Mansion." But an author who has examined politics in the State says pardons are still pretty much a no win situation.

Monday, July 28, 2008

MIssissippi: Drive to Limit the Pardon Power

Adrienne Barton graduated from Pascagoula High School and was murdered by Michael David Graham sixteen years later. WLOZ reports that her graduating class "was outraged when Graham's prison sentence was suspended" by the Governor. So, several members of the class are now "writing personal notes to the governor" on a "very personalized petition" that will be delivered by State Representative Brandon Jones in August. Jones is also reported to be "exploring" options regarding limiting the Governor's power to grant pardons and will address state lawmakers on the topic at the legislative special session next month. See story here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mississippi: Gov. Still on Defense

The Sun Herald reports Gov. Haley Barbour is promising to "do a better job of responding to public comment if he pardons or suspends the sentence of an inmate." The promise comes after Barbour appeared to grant clemency in one case, but not in another. It is reported that "one of the criticisms" out there involves the Governor's "lack of response to the calls, e-mails and letters from people on the Coast asking him to reconsider." Barbour admits there was not a "very good system for responding to the public comment" but promises to "get to the bottom of that and get that straightened out."

Meanwhile Barbour has explained that he has not commuted the life sentence of Michael David Graham, but has merely "suspended" it. In contrast, he granted four pardons around the same time that he suspended the sentence. As such, what the Governor did was the equivalent of granting parole. Indeed, Graham will report regularly to a parole officer. See story here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mississippi: Governor Plays Defense

The Greenwood Commowealth reports Daryl Neely, a "policy adviser" to Gov. Haley Barbour, has "defended" the governor's decision last week to give a reprieve to convicted killer Michael David Graham while not granting clemency to death row inmate Dale Leo Bishop. Neely says the Governor "developed a personal knowledge" of Graham's case and argued the two cases were "not apples to apples - not even apples to oranges." See story here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mississippi: Denied

The Associated Press reports: "Gov. Haley Barbour has denied clemency to condemned inmate Dale Leo Bishop, leaving his life in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. Barbour's policy adviser Daryl Neely told reporters of Barbour's decision during a briefing to reporters at the state prison at Parchman as officials continued preparations for Bishop's 6 p.m. execution. The Supreme Court has not yet taken up three pending appeals filed by Bishop's attorneys. Bishop's attorneys say his life should be spared because he did not swing the hammer that killed Marcus James Gentry in 1998. Bishop also claims his bipolar disorder prevented him from making a sound decision when he asked for the death penalty in 2000."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MIssissippi: Support for Clemency

The Clarion Ledger, which describes itself as "a longtime supporter of the enforcement of the death penalty in Mississippi" notes that the State is "preparing to extract the ultimate penalty from [Dale Leo] Bishop when it appears clear that Bishop did not commit the ultimate crime." The paper says "undisputed trial testimony" indicated Bishop "was not the man swinging the hammer that delivered the fatal blows to victim's head" and observes that, "had Bishop been convicted in the neighboring states of Alabama or Louisiana, he would not be facing execution." The Ledger adds that Bishop "suffers from mental illness" and that there are "allegations" that his post-conviction counsel representation "suppressed evidence" of that illness. See story here

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