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Mississippi Supreme Court again upholds pardons

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:31 AM EDT, Fri May 18, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mississippi Supreme Court denies a bid to rehear a case on controversial pardons
  • The latest decision is issued "without comment," a court spokeswoman says
  • Critics say state rules and victims' rights were violated by over 200 pardons in January
  • But courts have consistently upheld the pardons, some of which went to convicted killers

(CNN) -- The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday denied the state attorney general's attempt to have it reconsider its assent to controversial pardons -- several of them for convicted killers -- issued earlier this year by outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour.

The decision was made "without comment," court spokeswoman Beverly Pettigrew Kraft said by e-mail.

Attorney General Jim Hood has been a harsh and persistent critic of the 214 pardons and clemencies issued by Barbour in January, shortly before the governor left office.

Besides questioning whether some convicted of violent crimes should so easily walk free, he has argued some of the pardons were invalid because they did not meet a state constitutional requirement that notices be filed each day for 30 days in newspapers based where the crimes were committed.

But Mississippi courts have consistently upheld the pardons.

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The state Supreme Court was among them, ruling in March that Barbour had complete power to pardon and his authority could not be challenged.

In a statement afterward, Barbour said the decision "reaffirmed more than a century of settled law in our state," but acknowledged that his pardons have been difficult for those who themselves or had family members victimized by those who went free.

Hood, a Democrat, didn't give up his legal fight after that decision. In a brief filed with the state's high court later in March, he argued the case should be reheard because the "private personal rights" of the victims, as provided by the state constitution and Mississippi Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, were violated by the pardons.

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, but four were convicted murderers who had worked as "trusties" at the governor's mansion.

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.

They included relatives of Tammy Ellis, who was gunned down by David Gatlin in 1993 as she held her 6-week-old son.

Other convicted killers who, like Gatlin, received full pardons and were named in Hood's brief include Charles Hooker, who was convicted in a 1991 murder, and Anthony McCray, convicted in a 2001 murder.

CNN's Rich Phillips contributed to this report.

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