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Mississippi AG takes Barbour pardons back to state's high court

By Rich Phillips, CNN
updated 5:37 AM EDT, Fri March 23, 2012
 During his last days in office, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour issued pardons and clemencies to 214 people.
During his last days in office, former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour issued pardons and clemencies to 214 people.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Attorney General Jim Hood petitions Mississippi Supreme Court for a rehearing
  • Hood argues the pardons violated victims' "private personal rights"
  • Former Gov. Haley Barbour issued some 200 pardons in his last days in office
  • "Our constitutional rights were violated," says sister of one murder victim

(CNN) -- Mississippi's attorney general Thursday again asked the state Supreme Court to overturn some 200 pardons, including those of convicted murderers, issued by former Gov. Haley Barbour in January during his last days in office.

In a brief, Attorney General Jim Hood argued that the case should be reheard because the "private personal rights" of the victims, as provided by the state constitution and the Mississippi Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, were violated by the pardons.

"I am so pleased. I am so happy that Jim Hood is not ready to roll over and die yet," said Randy Walker, who was wounded by one of the pardoned killers. "We're excited," he said.

Walker was shot in the head during a 1993 attack in which David Gatlin gunned down Tammy Ellis as she held her 6-week-old son. Gatlin was her estranged husband and the child's father.

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"Our constitutional rights were violated," said Tiffany Ellis Brewer, Tammy Ellis' sister. "We're pretty happy about this news."

In January, during his last days in office, Barbour issued pardons and clemencies to 214 people, including four convicted murderers and an armed robber, who were serving life sentences.

A representative for Barbour did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A representative for the attorney general told CNN that Hood would not have any comment on the motion.

Earlier this month, the Mississippi high court ruled Barbour had complete power to pardon and his authority could not be challenged.

In a statement after the court ruling, Barbour said it "reaffirmed more than a century of settled law in our state," but acknowledged that his decision has been difficult for many of the inmates' victims.

But in a dissenting opinion, state Supreme Court Justice Michael Randolph called the decision "a stunning victory for some lawless convicted felons, and an immeasurable loss for the law-abiding citizens of our state."

Hood had argued that the state constitution requires that for a pardon to be valid, notices be filed each day for 30 days in newspapers where the crimes were committed.

Barbour, who also is former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has said that he believes in redemption and that people deserve second chances. Most of the pardons involved convicts who had already served their time and have since been released from prison for their crimes.

Victims' families have denounced the former governor for not meeting with them to discuss his reasons why he would show such leniency to these men. But Thursday's last-ditch attempt to short-circuit the pardons has given victims hope.

"I am delighted. I am so glad, so proud that we have an attorney general who cares about the people of Mississippi," said Randy Walker, the shooting victim.

"I'm so pleased. We thought we had to accept what was said and done," he said. "My spirit has been renewed."

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