Apparently, all it takes these days to be pardoned for murder is a little Pledge — and no, I don’t mean a pledge saying that you won’t do it again; I mean the actual cleaning product.
Outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has pardoned at least four convicted killers who worked at the Governor’s Mansion, including a man who was denied parole less than two weeks ago.
In the executive orders Barbour signed, he wrote each “proved to be a diligent and dedicated workman.”
The former inmates are David Gatlin, convicted of killing his estranged wife in 1993; Joseph Ozment, convicted in 1994 of killing a man during a robbery; Anthony McCray, convicted in 2001 of killing his wife; Charles Hooker, sentenced to life in 1992 for murder; and Nathan Kern, sentenced to life in 1982 for burglary after at least two prior convictions.
You can read the article for the details surrounding each of the brutal murders, but trust me when I say that it only exacerbates the redonkulous-ness of the situation — especially when you factor in the information that, under Barbour, Mississippi has also executed nine murderers in the last six years. But hey, what else would you expect from a Republican, right?
Democrats were quick to condemn the pardons, though past governors from both parties have granted some sort of early release to the inmates who lived and worked at the Governor’s Mansion.
“Serving your sentence at the Governor’s Mansion where you pour liquor, cook and clean should not earn a pardon for murder,” Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a Democrat, posted Monday on his Facebook page.
Barbour’s three predecessors, dating back to 1988, gave some type of early release or pardon to a total of 12 Governor’s Mansion trusties. All but two of them had been convicted of murder. One was serving time for forgery and another for armed robbery and aggravated assault. [emphasis my own]
I don’t know what “trusties” are (sounds like a low-end adult diaper brand), but anyone following Barbour’s career over the years shouldn’t be surprised. From Radley Balko’s two-year-old Slate article on a similar subject:
Over the last two years [2007-2009], as reported by the Jackson Free Press, Barbour has pardoned, granted clemency to, or suspended the sentences of at least five convicted murderers, four of whom killed their wives or girlfriends. Those four are:
- Bobby Hays Clark, who in 1996 shot his ex-girlfriend in the neck and beat her boyfriend with a broom handle. Clark, who had a previous aggravated assault conviction, was sentenced to 38 years. Barbour pardoned him last year without notifying the family of Clark’s victim.
- Michael David Graham, who in 1989 shot his ex-wife point-blank with a shotgun while she waited at a traffic light. Barbour suspended Graham’s life sentence, and he was released.
- Clarence Jones, who stabbed his ex-girlfriend 22 times in 1992. She had previously filed multiple assault and trespassing charges against him. He was sentenced to life in prison. Barbour pardoned him last year.
- Paul Joseph Warnock, who in 1989 shot his girlfriend in the back of the head as she slept. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1993. Barbour pardoned him last year.
Barbour also pardoned William James Kimble, convicted and sentenced to life for robbing and murdering an elderly man in 1991.
None of these men were pardoned because of concerns that they didn’t receive a fair trial or could be innocent. Instead, all five were enrolled in a prison trusty program that had them doing odd jobs around the Mississippi governor’s mansion. Responding to backlash when Barbour suspended Graham’s sentence, a spokesman for Barbour told the Free Press, “Historically, Governors have reviewed cases like that of Michael Graham, whose conduct as a prisoner earned him the right to work as a trusty at the Governor’s Mansion, where he has performed well and proven to be a diligent workman. The Governor is giving him a chance through an indefinite suspension of his sentence to start a new life away from Pascagoula and Jackson County, pending his future good behavior.”
Yeah! Fuck the murdered! Why should I have no life just because they don’t, right?
Take us home, Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps:
“I have sympathy and empathy for the victims,” Epps said. “I’ve been a crime victim, but the point of the matter is this is just something that happens.”
Almost makes you want to break in to song…
I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget the floors I mopped
Which is why you pardoned me
And I gladly stand UP next to you
Since I’m no longer in jail-y
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I luv this guv
God Bless that Barbour, Haley!