May 20, 2014 10:39:53 AM
OXFORD -- One of the ex-prisoners who received a pardon from then-Gov. Haley Barbour 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 of Slate Springs made the plea Monday in Oxford before special Circuit Judge Breland Hilburn.
Harris had faced more severe charges of depraved heart murder in the 2013 death of Chris McGonagill of Calhoun City. A trial had been set to begin Monday.
Creekmore said Harris was sentenced to five years in prison, followed by a 15-year suspended sentence. He also was sentenced to five years of post-supervision release.
Authorities said Harris and McGonagill argued at a cookout and both fired guns. Both were wounded, McGonagill fatally.
"It's a good outcome for a very difficult situation for the victim's family and given the circumstance," Creekmore said.
He said that the plea means McGonagill's family avoided a potentially difficult trial.
"I've got to believe that the defendant accepting responsibility, accepting responsibility for the death of their husband and father, was a greater relief to them than what could have happened at trial," Creekmore said.
Harris was pardoned by Barbour in 2012 well after serving a sentence for selling marijuana. He was sentenced in 2001 and released in 2007.
Convicted felons typically are not allowed to possess firearms, that didn't apply in Harris' case because of the full pardon he received from Barbour.
Barbour, a Republican, sparked an uproar when he pardoned nearly 200 people as his second term was ending in January 2012. The total included four convicted murderers and a robber who worked as inmate trusties at the Governor's Mansion. Crime victims' advocates and families across the state called for the pardons to be revoked.
Barbour has said he's at peace with the pardons because his Christian faith teaches about redemption.
Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican who succeeded the term-limited Barbour, has said he will not issue any pardons.
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