Barbour Likes Pardoning Murderers

For the eighth time in his two terms, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi pardoned a convicted murder this week, all of whom had worked at the governor’s mansion while serving their sentences as part of a special program for “well-behaved inmates.”

I’m one of those people who think governors and the president should use their authority to pardon more often, but it should be in cases of clear injustice. It does not appear that any of the men pardoned by Barbour were falsely convicted or had any doubt that they were guilty of the crimes they were accused of. In fact, Barbour refused to pardon Cory Maye, who was falsely convicted of killing a police officer in a case made famous by Friend of Dispatches Radley Balko. And as Balko noted in a Slate magazine piece in 2009, he refused to issue even a posthumous pardon for a black civil rights worker who was falsely convicted in 1960.

But of the 8 men Barbour has now pardoned, 5 of them killed their current or former wives or girlfriends. The latest one, David Glenn Gatlin, shot his wife in the head while she was holding their infant child, then shot a friend of hers as well. Balko wrote in 2009:

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.”

Whether a man who shot his ex-wife point-blank with a shotgun deserves a chance to start a new life, and whether giving him that chance is a proper use of the clemency power is, I suppose, something GOP primary voters will mull over should Barbour decide to run for president in 2012. What’s perverse is that while Barbour’s been generously dispensing mercy to convicted murderers fortunate enough to get face time with him in Jackson, he’s been utterly uninterested in a crisis unfolding in his state’s criminal justice system, and the very real possibility that there are a number of innocent people at Mississippi’s Parchman Penitentiary, including on death row.

So while he doesn’t give a damn about the people who’ve been wrongly convicted in a state with one of the worst and most discriminatory criminal justice systems in the country, he does seem to have a soft spot for men who kill their wives — as long as they mow his lawn once in a while.

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  • Jordan Genso

    Is there evidence of any other reasons that he may have used when deciding who to pardon? Since IIRC, he has now pardoned around 209 people (with around 194 happening this week), I’ll be interested in seeing what patterns emerge when those cases are reviewed.

    It seems as though Gov. Barbour has accepted that he doesn’t have a political future, so he had the opportunity to massively abuse his powers without any negative consequences against himself. I interested to see what he did with that opportunity.

  • jolo5309

    Look, Barbour only wants to pardon women killers. It is not like these guys have killed anyone important, after all, they are only women…

  • Michael Heath

    Anderson Cooper had the state’s Attorney General on his show last evening. The AG repeatedly described Gov. Barbour’s behavior as analogous to “Boss Hogg”, which made even me cringe since I assume the citizens of Mississippi don’t want to be associated with such a broadly drawn caricature, even when they deserve it. The AG is the only statewide official who is a Democrat.

    The AG did make a good argument these pardons might be rescinded because they weren’t filed properly and there was no public notice and feedback period as required by law.

  • And Haley Barbour was the RNC’s head scumbag while the congress tried to impeach a sitting president over a blowjob. BTW, I haven’t really thought about him in quite some time but fuck Ken Starr, with a flaming cross.

  • harold

    It is incredibly important to understand this.

    There is a lingering false propaganda belief from circa 1972, that “liberals” are excessively concerned with rights of criminals, to the extent that they lack concern for crime victims, and that “conservatives” support tough but fair justice.

    The current reality is the exact opposite.

    The contemporary authoritarian right wing, represented by the Republican party, the Tea Party, the Fox/Limbaugh/”conservative columnist/panelist” in every mainstream media platform, etc, has the same tendency as all authoritarians have had everywhere and probably always will.

    They are obsessively, almost to the point of a fetish, concerned with helping and encouraging the strong to harm the weak. Every individual right wing stance can be understood by understanding this.

    The right wing authoritarian stance is actually strongly at odds with rule of law. They instinctively favor scapegoating the powerless, using justice system resources to aggressively pursue arbitrarily defined victimless “crimes”, convicting people for crimes they didn’t commit, and making conviction a brutal, life-ruining event for those who are out of favor.

    Meanwhile crimes by “strong men” who are conveniently “born again” into a misogynistic, homophobic, authoritarian form of Christianity, are likely to be ignored or under-punished.

    This system is being tried in many places and has been tried many times throughout history – basically, convict the wrong people and treat them to brutal punishment.

    The result is nearly always exactly what it is in most parts of the deep south of the US today. The worst of both worlds. A massive incarceration rate and brutal punishment, yet, at the same time, the law-abiding population subject to a massive rate of violent and property crimes.

  • D. C. Sessions

    How do the racial stats for the lucky 200-some compare to those of the Mississippi prison population in general?

  • Doug Little


    Here is the list of pardons

    Unfortunately it doesn’t have race as a category but it’s a start.

  • Pinky

    Gov. Haley Barbour pardoning those who have been in close proximity to him could be the result of Barbour believing too much bullshit from the cons.

    I have heard parole officers say what comes out of a real criminals mouth is always a scam. Prison teaches the scam. How to fool the important people (like a governor, psychiatrist, caseworker or religious clergy ) into thinking the criminal was remorseful and would never do a crime again: “No sir, you can trust me sir!”

    Add in body language, patience – knowing when to press or stay silent, a dash of tears and you’ve got yourself a pardon or possibly some extended privileges.

    I cannot remember (for what my recall is worth) hearing of prison guards or parole officers being scammed by a criminal they were responsible for. It may be they have much more practice at being skeptical.

    Unfortunately the guilty sound like the innocent which may be why the effort to investigate a miscarriage of justice often has the inertia of an object at rest.

  • stubby

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Barbour’s christianity was the motivating factor. I could see him being swayed by those killers playing the role of repentant jebus lovers.

  • Chris from Europe

    Prison teaches the scam.

    That reminds me of the teabagger who insisted that it isn’t the job of the prison system to turn the inmates into better people. The responsible agencies are apparently called corrections for fun.


    Isn’t it a bit hard to be “excessively concerned with rights of criminals” in the United States? Are there any liberal politicians these days that dare to be rightfully concerned with rights of criminals?

  • exdrone

    Michael @3:

    The AG did make a good argument these pardons might be rescinded because they weren’t filed properly and there was no public notice and feedback period as required by law.

    You mean the murderers’ unjustified pardons could be denied for bureaucratic reasons? There is just no justice in this world!

  • Azkyroth

    Anyone want to hazard a guess as to the race of the pardonees here?

  • stubby

    CNN just interviewed one of the pardoned murderers and here is a quote.

    “I didn’t do this. God did this.”

  • Midnight Rambler

    Anyone want to hazard a guess as to the race of the pardonees here?

    Of the four they were reported to be trying to track down last night, two were white and two were black.

  • Pinky

    @ Chris from Europe

    I said

    Prison teaches the scam.

    You said

    That reminds me of the teabagger who insisted that it isn’t the job of the prison system to turn the inmates into better people. The responsible agencies are apparently called corrections for fun.

    Comparing me to a Teabagger, that hurts! Seriously it appears you have read too much into my statement. I did not say the US prison administration did not try to rehabilitate inmates nor did I say prisons should be horrible places where, in addition to denial of liberty, prisoners should be tortured. I do not believe nor give lip service to tropes like: “The other prisoners will take care of zim” or “Zim will get his ass stretched in the joint.”

    I stand by my statement: “Prison teaches the scam”, and will go even farther; scams are even learned before being sent to prison. At the sentencing hearing for the person who ran me over, the man’s admission of guilt was a half mumbled meander mostly composed of zim saying zie wished it had never happened. At the end of zir talk, as if it were an afterthought, the person said: “Oh yeah, I found god while I was waiting for my sentencing hearing.” The “finding god” statement, an overused cynical attempt to ingratiate zimself with the judge for a easier sentence was made even more awkward by the person’s unpracticed delivery. After the statement was made there was silence in the courtroom for a beat, then laughter broke out with the loudest laughter coming from the orange suited prisoners waiting for arraignment that morning.

    The man had yet to learn how to make the “I found god” statement convincing.

    Concerning rehabilitation / recidivism; that’s a discussion for another time.