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

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mississippi: Barbour's "White" Christian Mercy

Just when Haley Barbour thought he had sold the swampland in Florida, comes Reuters with this nugget via University of Georgia statisticians Kim Love-Myers and Jaxk Reeves:
Overlooked in the controversy has been the racial composition of the list of inmates and ex-convicts Barbour pardoned. Barbour granted 222 acts of clemency in his tenure to 221 individuals ... Of those, roughly two of three were white, according to data from the Mississippi Department of Corrections and a search of public records. The racial makeup of Mississippi's prison population is the inverse: about two-thirds' black. Whites make up about 59 percent of the state's population as a whole and blacks about 37 percent.
Barbour, through a spokesperson of course, says that race played no factor in his decisions. A Notre Dame Law School professor, however, says, "At the very least, those numbers raise some very disturbing questions that need to be addressed by the attorney general and even by the U.S. Department of Justice civil rights division." Equally interesting is this piece of information:
... the [State's Parole] board received more than 500 applications during Barbour's eight-year tenure. Of those, just over 250 met the required standards for consideration and were sent on to the governor's office. Among the applications forward by the Parole Board, Warnock calculated that Barbour granted clemency to 185 applicants and denied it to 69 others.
So, now we know that Barbour did not grant clemency to almost 70 individuals whom the Parole Board deemed worthy of "consideration." Now, we just need to know when the recommendations were made, so as to determine how long Barbour sat on the applications.

Professor Love-Myers and Reeves also found that based on Mississippi's prison demographics, white prisoners were about four times more likely to be pardoned than black prisoners. See story here.

Mississippi: Program Abolished. Pardon Power Just Fine

While Haley Barbour tours the Nation's media expressing deep concern that his rabid critics will undermine the very Constitution where he once served as governor, the Clarion Ledger reports what most more calm, and intelligent people expected all along: namely that "State prison trusties are no longer working at the Governor's Mansion." From this point foward, prisoners of trusty, or minimum security status "may serve in one of several community work centers throughout the state, as well as in maintenance or office positions in the prisons, depending on their crimes." See story here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Barbour's Preposterous Whining

Haley Barbour has been given editorial space in the Washington Post, but continues to stick to the ridiculous story line that he is an upright, Christian guy whose admirable behavior has simply been misunderstood by an irrational, crazed mob. He was simply too busy saving lives and comforting the afflicted post-Katrina to consider use of the pardon power. Yes. Yes.

But, for all of his whining, it is perfectly clear that Mr. Barbour 1) neglected the pardon power for eight years as he pondered whether or not to insert himself into the race for the Republican nomination to the presidency 2) that Barbour sat on favorable recommendations made to him by the State's parole board for months, perhaps years 3) that deserving clemency applicants suffered because of Barbour's callous neglect 4) that Barbour could have simply followed the recommendations of the State Parole Board in most of the cases, across eight years, and there would have been no controversy whatsoever. But, by waiting until his last day in office to suddenly have time for Christian mercy (so wildly popular in Mississippi), he cast a cloud of doubt and suspicion over the clemency process and the clemency recipients.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Delaware: Mercy!

The Associated Press reports Delaware Gov. Jack Markell "has spared the life of a man who was facing execution this week for the 1990 murder of his former girlfriend." Apparently, Markell is not on his way out of office either - take note Haley Barbour! The 49-year old, Robert Gattis, was scheduled to die Friday, but his sentence has been commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Under Delaware law, governors cannot grant such commutations unless a majority of a five-member Board recommends it.

Markell decided not to wait for backlash, then declare himself the victim of harsh criticism (see Haley Barbour). Instead, Markell stated publicly that the decision was among the most difficult he has made as an elected official. He has also recognized the pain that the decision may cause to the victim's family (whom he met with personally - unlike Haley Barbour). But Markell said, after "substantial time" considering the application, and praying, he was simply not "free from doubt," and he just could not allow the execution to go forward.

Governor Markell. A class act. Barbour, even more foolish looking! See story here.

Clueless: Michael A. Lindenberger on Barbour

In this classically tone-deaf editorial at Time, Michael A. Lindenberger further promotes the Police Squad-like script that former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour represents all that is right and has, somehow, become the victim of unwarranted criticism and attack. And, for dramatic effect, Lindenberger professes concern that Mississippians (who are "calling for blood") could "do real damage to an important safety valve in the American justice system."

On the other hand, Lindenberger is not at all concerned that Haley Barbour all but completely neglected this "important safety valve" for eight long years. No, not a word on that. Nor does Lindenberger display even the slightest concern that any of Barbour's last-minute decisions were made in haste (despite all of the missing information in the clemency warrants, the typos, the lack of detail, etc.). Lindenberger says he is concerned about pardons that have the feel of an "unappealable decision" or seem to hide "secrets" from the public. But it doesn't even dawn on him that dumping a huge pile of pardons just before one leaves office (after ignoring the pardon power for eight years) would clearly encourage any thoughtful person to suspect that unappealable decisions had been made in secret.

No, in Lindenberger's not-so-parallel universe, Barbour has done the reputation of the pardon power a great favor ! And Barbour deserves our praise.

Why, even Bill Clinton's most staunch cheerleaders were not so brazenly obtuse.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Christian Alternative to Haley Barbour

Haley Barbour has wrapped eight years of neglect and a last-minute splurge of pardons in the cloak of Christianity, the religion of most Mississippians. But it is interesting to compare Barbour's callous behavior and cartoonish justifications with the vision of Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship / Justice Fellowship. The Fellowship notes:
Most offenders’ shackles do not disappear when they finish their sentences and walk out the prison gates. Rather, for the rest of their lives they endure the invisible punishments of their convictions: restrictions on employment, housing, civic involvement, gun ownership, and even coaching sports. Many of these restrictions have no relation to the ex-offenders’ crimes but are simply part of blanket barriers to opportunities. State laws vary, but in general the consequences of having a criminal background are substantial - unless an offender receives a pardon.
For these reasons, the Fellowship laments the fact that:
... most state governors exercise their powers of executive clemency and pardon with scant regularity.
And argues:
Executives that fail to exercise their duty of pardon in appropriate cases deny deserving offenders the relief that can transform their lives.
As for not having time for clemency until the last possible minute ... the Fellowship notes:
... granting clemency and pardons should become a more common practice for government executives. Justice Fellowship believes the biblical narrative provides a compelling case for the value of forgiveness, and government executives should take seriously their responsibility to consider situations that warrant forgiveness.
See full discussion of clemency here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mississippi Trustee Law

Is it Real, or is it Hollywood?

Barbour = The Problem, Not the Power

In honor of Haley Barbour's irresponsible behavior, we repost this piece, formerly entitled, "The Conservative Case for the Pardon Power."

Right On Crime (added to our blog listing) is a new site which claims to focus on "Conservative" views of the criminal justice system. In particular, it takes an interest in reducing crime, reducing the costs of criminal justice, reforming past offenders, restoring victims and protecting communities. In its Statement of Principles, the site notes that "Conservatives are known for being tough on crime," but argues it is also vital to achieve "a cost-effective system that protects citizens, restores victims, and reforms wrongdoers." In addition:
The corrections system should emphasize public safety, personal responsibility, work, restitution, community service, and treatment—both in probation and parole, which supervise most offenders, and in prisons. An ideal criminal justice system works to reform amenable offenders who will return to society through harnessing the power of families, charities, faith-based groups, and communities.
With these very concerns (and others) in mind, here are some reasons why Conservatives should favor well-articulated clemency policies which 1) regularize the process and minimize the tendency toward last-minute blitzes 2) restore a proper balance between the branches of government 3) address the specific concerns of Conservatives and 4) re-educate the American public as to the significance of the pardon power:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Barbour: Justice Really Important, If You Have Time for It!

Just minutes ago, former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour appeared on Fox News (Special Report with Bret Baier) to explain / justify his last-minute pardon bonanza. After insultingly suggesting he had been "misunderstood," Barbour said most people in the State of Mississippi were Christians and Christians believe in forgiveness. He added that America is a place where people get second chances. He also linked the pardon power to Mississippi's earliest Constitution, then the United States Constitution, and dared to compare his record on clemency to that of the conservative Republican gold standard - Ronald Reagan (who was President for eight years, but certainly did not grant 95 percent of his pardons on his last day in office - see chart below). Yes, it was a semi-impressive, inspiring, all-American, praise-allelujah, apple-pie, John Wayne, you-damn-tooting sales pitch for the power of executive clemency until  ...

Barbour said he couldn't really "look at" pardons for eight long years because he was busy with "Katrina and other things" (President Reagan, Barbour's "hero," evidently, was not nearly so busy). Good thing Barbour added "the other things" in there. Otherwise, eventually, someone would have asked, "Mr. Barbour, how many people did you pardon between January of 2004 (when you took office) and August of 2005 (Katrina)?" The answer is: ZERO. Almost 600 days of nothing! Zip. Notta.

Incidentally, the loafer Reagan granted more than 80 pardons in his first 600 days as President. But that is because it only took Reagan 65 days to start granting pardons. On the other hand, the tireless workhorse and endlessly distracted Mr. Barbour needed 1,649 days (four and a half years)!

Oh, the humanity!

Yes, and the one, single day, that Barbour was finally able to come up for air just happened to be his last day in office. Oddly enough, the God of most Mississippians (and of Christianity) appears not to be so busy, and is always ready to forgive (Psalms 86:5).

Busy Barbour v. Loafer / Ready to Forgive Reagan
Number of Pardons and Commutations Granted by Year of Term

Year 1
Year 2
Year 3
Year 4
Reagan 1st Term
Reagan 2nd Term
Barbour 1st Term
Barbour 2nd Term

Stee-rike two on Haley Barbour's PR rehabilitation tour.

In Defense of Barbour (Kinda)

In today's U.S. News, Mary Cary (drowsy Cubs' fans, please relax), a former speech writer for Mississippi Governor, who knows him "pretty well," is sharing that Mr. Barbour is "is an honorable, decent man" who is "compassionate and treats the people who work for him well." To boot, Mr. Barbour is "one of the smartest people" Cary knows "in politics."

With this critical information on the table Cary argues that Mr. Barbour's last minute pardon of hundreds of individuals, after 8 steady years of neglect of clemency powers "may be" (yes, those were her words) controversial, but "not illegal." [Insert John Phillip Sousa march].

Yes, in addition to arguing that Barbour had "every right to do what he did," Cary says the "uproar" that Barbour is "going through" right now is what causes presidents to give "fewer and fewer pardons."   [Enter standard reference to Alexander Hamilton - who wanted to hang the pardoned participants in the Whiskey Rebellion and Friesis Rebellion - and the Federalist Papers].

Mississippi: Pardon Controversy Levels Up

The Boston Herald reports that a Mississippi district attorney is raising the Haley Barbour Last Minute Pardon controversy to new levels. The State's Attorney General has already raised concerned that some of those receiving pardons did not meet the State Constitutional requirement of providing notice in county newspapers. One automatically wonders how many others, in the past, have failed to do so!

But Jackson County District Attorney Tony Lawrence now wants to argue that, where there was such public notification, in one case:
... the information published in the newspaper on the defendant’s behalf prior to her pardon was inaccurate and incomplete ... He’s not given a satisfactory explanation at all. He has implied we are confused but he is the one who is confused. 
Whether or not truth, accuracy and reader satisfaction are also Constitutional requirements remains to be seen. See full story here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Barbour, Notably Unconvincing

In a largely unimpressive attempt to explain / justify his recent pardons, Haley Barbour notes:
"The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote. My decision about clemency was based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90 percent of the cases."
But we all know that there will time enough to examine the substance of each and every decision. The controversy, for now, largely focuses on the manner in which the pardons were granted, almost 200, just as Barbour left office, and after 8 long years of studious neglect of clemency powers.

And the explanation for that, Mr. Governor is ... ???

Stee-rike one !!! 

Mississippi: 21 Pardons Blocked !

Fox News reports 21 of Haley Barbour's acts of clemency have been temporarily blocked. See complete story here.

Mississippi: Department of Corrections Statement

"Some people have misunderstood the clemency process and think that all or most of the individuals who received clemency from former Gov. Haley Barbour were in jail at the time of their release. Approximately 90 percent of these individuals were no longer in custody, and a majority of them had been out for years. The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote. My decision about clemency was based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90 percent of the cases. The 26 people released from custody due to clemency is just slightly more than one-tenth of 1 percent of those incarcerated.

Half of the people who were incarcerated and released were placed on indefinite suspension due to medical reasons because their health care expenses while incarcerated were costing the state so much money. These individuals suffer from severe chronic illnesses, are on dialysis, in wheelchairs or are bedridden. They are not threats to society but if any of them commits an offense - even a misdemeanor - they’ll be returned to custody to serve out their term.

Of the inmates released for medical reasons, a small number were placed on house arrest, and all still remain under the supervision of the Department of Corrections."

Mississippi: Illegal pardons?

Channel 16 WAPT reports Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood "is taking legal action in response to pardons issued by outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour." In particular, Hood is concerned about five inmates Barbour pardoned on Friday, all trusties at the Governor's Mansion and 4 of 5 convicted of murder. Hood says Barbour has violated the state Constitution because "the pardon requests from the inmates were not published 30 days in advance, as required. State law requires that before the governor can grant a pardon, sufficient public notice must be given." So, he is asking Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green to block the release of the inmates. See story here. The State Constitution reads:
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.
Mississippi Constitution, 1972 Article V § 124. A spokeswoman for Barbour says, "The burden to publish is on the person seeking the pardon. The governor has the constitutional authority to pardon."

Gov. Barbour's Wild Clemency Ride

On his last day in office Mississippi Governor signed individual clemency warrants for 209 individuals. It was quite the stunt for a guy who used clemency a mere 8-12 times (depending on who is counting) since entering the office in 2004.

Unusual for a batch of clemency decisions these days, this pile had a kind of relevancy about it. Five offenses were committed way back in the 1960s. Fifteen were committed in the 1970's and forty-five were committed in the 1980's. But, amazingly, 71 were committed in the 1990's and 71 more in the 2000's.  The oldest offense 51.3 years ago. But the average offense was committed 17 years ago. The most recent, just over a year.

Oh, the offenses are generally of the usual sort, drugs, lots of drugs ... possession, selling, buying, producing, etc. And there is a bit of robbery and burglary along the way. And, there's the notable person, or two, like former Packer quarterback Brett Favre's older brother. Fourteen of the warrants are suspensions of sentence for medical reasons. Then again, there are quirky offenses: gratification of lust (oooo!), conspiracy to commit vote fraud (punished by house arrest), possessing crystal meth near a church, cyberstalking and the like.

The signs of a last-minute rush abound. 63 percent of the warrants do not even list the sentences that were given to recipients. Other critical dates are missing right and left. A man named Turner was pardoned. But he has actually been dead for some time, since 1999. The warrant doesn't say when he was convicted, if he died in prison, or anything about why he was pardoned. Which seems odd given the fact that, well, he is dead, and given the fact that someone took the time to note an arsonist from the 1960's was now living a "good, productive and useful life." Clarence Tyer's clemency warrant actually reads like this:
Whereas Clarence Crawford Tyer, Jr. was discharged on; and Now, therefore, I, Haley Barbour ...
Someone needs to slow down a bit here!

Only one of Barbour's warrants explicitly used the phrase "commutation of sentence," but no less than 22 of the decisions reduced the severity of sentence by abruptly ending probation (3) or parole (4) or moving forward tentative "release" (3) or "discharge" (7) dates. Barbour cut over a year off of one individual's need to be under supervision, following a felony arrest for a 3rd D.U.I. Of course, this was all pretty good news for a man named Tate, who was looking at a release date of 2063. Another was looking at a tentative release date of 2025 for D.U.I. homicide.

15 of Barbour's recipients had multiple convictions, in multiple years. Almost 30 were found guilty of murder, manslaughter, accessory to murder or the like. One third of them were originally sentenced to life in prison. It appears three literally walked right out of prison (Harper, Kambule and Irby).

Yes, it was a classic example of just about every thing the pardon power should not be. The only thing that seems to be missing, for now, is some hint of "politics" (donors, supporters, friends, relatives, inside influence and the like). But, give it time. Barbour clearly could have spread these decisions over a period of months, if not years, making each one a little more well-considered, a little less suspicious looking and - for those who really were deserving - something barely worth public celebration. But, no, a Republican governor, in the South, and potential presidential nominee has to keep up appearances.

One thing we can say for certain, now, Barbour will not be considering a run for the presidency any time in this lifetime.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mississippi: Tip of an Iceberg?

The Associated Press reports here that "dozens" of others have been pardoned by outgoing Governor Barbour. The Sun Herald confirms here that it is uncertain just how many there were. The Clarion Ledger here says the list may include more than 200 (after granting maybe 8 pardons through his first 8 years in office)! Geoff Pender, of the Sun Herald, informs us:
he's (Barbour's) been filing them as individual executive orders. We have the full list now, though. He just pardoned/granted clemency to more than 200 people today.
See Barbour's overall clemency record here. A new .pdf including the recent 200 plus acts of clemency can be found here! Among them, Earnest Scott Favre, the brother of former Packer quarterback Bret Favre, who was involved in a DUI that resulted in a death in 1997. Here are Barbour's pardons by year:

2004 - 0
2005 - 0
2006 - 0
2007 - 0
2008 - 5
2009 - 0
2010 - 2
2011 - 1
2012 - 200 plus!

Post on Barbour Pardons

The Washington Post notes outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour "has pardoned at least four convicted killers who worked as inmate trusties at the Governor’s Mansion, including a man who was denied parole less than two weeks ago." According to the Post, the pardon "outraged victims’ relatives" and Democratic lawmakers are calling "for an end to the custom of governors’ issuing such end-of-tenure pardons." Good luck with that!

Among those benefiting from Barbour's decision making are:
David Gatlin, convicted of killing his estranged wife in 1993; 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; and Nathan Kern, sentenced to life in 1982 for burglary after at least two prior convictions.
Gatlin was sentenced to life in prison and the Mississippi Parole Board turned down his parole request on Dec. 27. His next hearing was scheduled for October. McCray pleaded guilty to killing Jennifer Bonds McCray in a cafe in 1991. Ozment was sentenced to life for a slaying which happened during a robbery. But the Post notes:
Barbour’s three predecessors, dating back to 1988, gave some type of early release or pardon to a total of 12 Governor’s Mansion trusties. All but two of them had been convicted of murder. One was serving time for forgery and another for armed robbery and aggravated assault.
 See Post article here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mississippi: Barbour Pardons Gatlin!

The Sun-Herald reports Gov. Haley Barbour (who will leave office on Tuesday) has granted clemency to David Glenn Gatlin, "who was convicted of murder, aggravated assault and burglary in 1993." Family members of the victim are said to be both "outraged and fearful" over Gatlin’s early release. See full story here.

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