The Supreme Court of Mississippi upheld the controversial pardons issued by the state’s former governor Haley Barbour during his last days in office.
Barbour, a Republican, pardoned nearly 200 of the state’s convicts, a move that he staunchly defended, saying that Mississippi is a highly Christian state and he was seeking to practice compassion. The people pardoned by Barbour included four convicted murderers and a robber who worked as inmate trusties at the Governor's Mansion.
In a 6–3 opinion, the Supreme Court justices said: "We are compelled to hold that — in each of the cases before us — it fell to the governor alone to decide whether the Constitution's publication requirement was met."
The pardons have been the topic of intense debate not only in Mississippi, but throughout the country.
Jim Hood, the state’s attorney general, called Barbour’s decision to issue the pardons shameful. Earlier this year, Hood, a Democrat, persuaded a state judge to temporarily block the release of 21 inmates Barbour had ordered freed and to require that the convicted murderers check in with authorities.
Another highly controversial aspect of Barbour’s decision to issue the pardons was the fact that he did not include among them Jamie and Gladys Scott, two African-American women known as the Scott Sisters. They were released on January 7, 2011, from a Mississippi penitentiary after serving 16 years for a robbery in which $11 was taken.
Because Jamie Scott suffers from kidney failure and her dialysis was costing the state about $200,000 a year, Barbour agreed to let her go under the condition that Gladys follow through on her offer to donate a kidney to her sister within one year. Yet, they were not issued pardons by Barbour.
Their lawyer has stated that he intends to seek a pardon from the new governor, Phil Bryant. Both women, the lawyer said, are having difficulty securing jobs due to the felony convictions because of their records.
The two sisters were convicted of an armed robbery in 1993 and have maintained that they are innocent.
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(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)