January 12, 2012 12:04:00 PM
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON -- A Mississippi judge has temporarily blocked the release of 21 inmates who'd been given pardons or medical release by Republican Haley Barbour in one of his final acts as governor.
Circuit Judge Tomie Green issued an injunction late Wednesday at the request of Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.
Hood said he believes Barbour might've violated the state constitution by pardoning some inmates who failed to give sufficient public notice that they were seeking to have their records cleared.
Barbour said in a statement Wednesday, a day after leaving office, that he believes people have misunderstood why he gave reprieves to more than 200 inmates. Most received full pardons, while others received suspended sentences because of medical conditions. Barbour said 189 of the inmates had already completed their incarceration.
Barbour was limited to two terms and issued the list of pardons and early releases Tuesday about the time his successor, Republican Phil Bryant, was being inaugurated. Barbour wouldn't answer repeated questions about the pardons Tuesday.
In Wednesday's statement, Barbour said, "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 pardons angered even some of Barbour's most ardent supporters in Mississippi, including some conservatives who say the actions tarnished his legacy. It also has created concerns within the state that his decisions may make Mississippi look backwards. Yet Barbour is unlikely to face political repercussions from the decisions -- he has said he doesn't expect to run for any elected office, nor does he expect to be chosen as a GOP vice-presidential nominee.
Barbour spokeswoman Laura Hipp was not immediately available for comment about Green's decision to temporarily block release of the 21 inmates. It was not clear how many of the 21 are convicted killers.
Section 124 of the Mississippi Constitution says any inmate seeking a pardon must publish notice about his intentions. Before the governor can grant it, the notice must appear 30 days in a newspaper in or near the county where the person was convicted.
Hood said it's not clear whether all the inmates pardoned by Barbour met the publication requirement and that he believes it's likely that some did not.
"It's unfortunate Gov. Barbour didn't read the constitution," Hood said Wednesday.