Lowndes inmate one of 21 whose release is challenged by AG

January 13, 2012 11:48:00 AM

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Twenty-one inmates who received pardons or other reprieves from former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour remain in custody until a court battle is resolved over whether Barbour properly handled their orders to go free.  

 

Barbour issued 209 pardons on Tuesday, his last day in office. 

 

A man convicted of murder in Lowndes County Circuit Court is one of the 21. 

 

Derrick Lynn Guyton, 40, is in the hospital, a spokeswoman from the Mississippi Department of Corrections said Thursday. Barbour's order said Guyton is considered on supervised parole under terms of the pardon that releases him on a suspended sentence for medical reasons. 

 

According to Barbour's executive order granting the pardon, Guyton was sentenced Feb. 11, 1999, for murder and simple assault convictions. 

 

Guyton was sentenced to life on the murder conviction and five years for simple assault of a police officer, the spokeswoman said. He has a 1987 conviction in Lowndes County for rape that carried a 15-year sentence. 

 

 

 

Pardons constitutional? 

 

At issue is whether the pardons are legal under Section 124 of the Mississippi Constitution, which says any inmate seeking a pardon must publish a public notice that he is seeking it. Before a pardon can be granted, the notice must appear for 30 days in a newspaper in or near the county where the inmate was convicted. 

 

 

 

Notice of pardon 

 

Of the four convicted in Lowndes County Circuit Court, The Dispatch has published pardon notices for two. 

 

The notice for Ryan Jeremiah Cooper began running Oct. 18, 2011. Ryan Jeremiah Cooper of Columbus was sentenced Aug. 29, 2002, for prescription forgery. He received five years of probation and a $1,000 fine. He completed probation successfully. 

 

The notice for Robert E. Price began its 30-day run Jan. 5. Richard Earl Price was sentenced Sept. 1, 1988, in Lowndes Circuit Court for aggravated assault, his pardon says. He was released from probation Oct. 23, 1991. 

 

The Dispatch had no notice on file for Guyton or Nathaniel Cunningham Jr., who was sentenced Nov. 25, 1985, for felony false pretense. His sentence was discharged Nov. 3, 1988. 

 

Those seeking a pardon for Oktibbeha convictions would have been required to publish notices in a different paper. 

 

 

 

Barbour response 

 

Barbour issued a statement Wednesday saying about 90 percent of the people he pardoned or gave clemency were no longer in custody.  

 

Five inmates who had worked as trusties in the Governor's Mansion were released Sunday. Four of them were convicted of killing people, and one was convicted of burglary. 

 

At the request of Attorney General Jim Hood, Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green issued an order late Wednesday to keep 21 inmates in custody to determine if requirements were met for release.  

 

Green ordered that the 21 inmates remain in custody until the Mississippi Department of Corrections provides proof the constitutional requirements were met.