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Miss. Pardons Blocked by Judge After 5 Murderers Freed

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on January 11, 2012 5:22 PM

A Mississippi judge issued a temporary injunction that forbids the release of 21 pardoned prisoners. This after outgoing Mississippi governor Haley Barbour pardoned some 200 inmates this week, including murderers and rapists.

During his last minutes in office, Gov. Barbour pardoned about 200 state inmates -- a number that far surpasses any governor in recent history. The list includes 14 convicted murderers; 2 dozen statutory rapists; and persons convicted of drug crimes, driving under the influence, burglary and armed robbery.

Several convicted murderers have already been released, CNN reports.

Mississippi's legal showdown moved swiftly into the night. Circuit Judge Tomie Green issued an injunction late Wednesday at the request of Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.

Hood says he believes Barbour might have violated the state constitution by pardoning some inmates who failed to give sufficient public notice that they were seeking to have their records cleared, the AP reports.

Barbour said he believes people have misunderstood why he gave reprieves to more than 200 inmates.

The majority of Barbour's pardons were "full, complete and unconditional," according to ABC News. This means that there will be no lingering correctional supervision.

Some crime victims are worried.

Victim Randy Walker has been one of the few to speak out. David Gatlin was convicted of killing his estranged wife and shooting Walker in the head. He was denied parole just two weeks ago, reports CNN, but was nonetheless granted one of Barbour's pardons.

Walker fears that Gatlin will "finish what he started." His wife also fears for their lives, and is concerned that he won't have any supervision.

This is one reason why governors -- and the president -- are judicious with their pardons. Most pardons involve low-level offenders and inmates subjected to bias, unfair sentences, or who have the backing of changed public opinion. Violent offenders are less likely to be pardoned.

Politicians simply don't want to deal with the fallout should the inmate go on to commit another violent crime. There must ordinarily be strong evidence of remorse and rehabilitation -- and perhaps a physical inability to engage in further violence.

No one is really sure why so many of Haley Barbour's pardons involve violent offenders. Judge Green may find out more after blocking the Mississippi pardons on procedural grounds.

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