Thursday, January 12, 2012


Political Mayhem Thursday II: The Haley Barbour Pardons

UPDATE: I will be talking about these pardons tonight at 9 pm on Fox, Channel 9 here in the Twin Cities.


It seemed a little odd when the ultimate DC insider, Haley Barbour, returned to his home state of Mississippi to run for governor. Barbour had been a highly successful head of the Republican National Committee in the 1990's, and found equal success as a lobbyist.

He won that race for governor, and then won re-election in 2007. Those inside-DC connections paid off for Mississippi when Katrina hit in 2005-- most observers think that Mississippi responded better and recovered faster than neighboring states (especially Louisiana).

Last week was his last in office, as he faced term limits. On his way out, he pardoned about 200 inmates, including 14 convicted of murder. Several of those murder convicts worked in the Governor's mansion. Now the (Democratic) Attorney General of the state is challenging the pardons because some did not meet a notice provision, and has refered to Gov. Barbour as "Boss Hogg."

If nothing else, this episode reveals something many criminal defense lawyers know well: That humanizing a convict to a key decision-maker can make all the difference.

Is there a problem here?

One immediate thought: I really wish that pardon policy was not in this rut of being tied to politicians about to leave office...
"...It is simply a power he has while leaving office.."

How about, it is a power the governor has simply decided to use only while leaving office. Good publicity or bad publicity. Isn't there some adage that any publicity is good publicity. May not be true in this case.

Not squarely on topic, but it reminds me of the story of Pat Neff (governor of Texas, 1921-1925) pardoning Lead Belly (in 1925) because his talent and message touched the governor's heart. Which was most likely the inspiration for the pardoning of the Soggy Bottom Boys by Governor Menelaus "Pappy" O'Daniel in O'Brother Where Art Thou?

Another observation: hats off to Haley Barbour for his willingness to serve the public interest of Mississippi as governor even after he became a political celebrity.
I think I'd be wary about keeping freed men locked up for fear of what would happen to me if I didn't if I were that judge. It's not reallya safe policy for people to find out you're the only reason they're still sitting in jail.
Could not disagree with you more Justin. The judge is not the reason these men are sitting in jail.
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