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Gov. Barbour pardons 4 killers
by Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Pres
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Former Gov. Haley Barbour addresses a joint session of the Mississippi Legislature for a final time in House Chambers at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
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JACKSON — Outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has pardoned at least four convicted killers who worked as inmate trusties at the Governor's Mansion, including a man who was denied parole less than two weeks ago.

Relatives of three victims told The Associated Press on Monday that state corrections officials notified them over the weekend that the convicts were to be released this past Sunday. Barbour, a Republican who weighed a presidential run last year before deciding against it, leaves office on Tuesday.

The pardons outraged victims' relatives. Democratic lawmakers called for an end to the custom of governors' issuing such end-of-tenure pardons

While Barbour's office hasn't responded to messages about the pardons, he told the AP in 2008 that releasing the trusties who live and work at the mansion is a tradition in Mississippi that goes back decades. Trusties are prisoners who earn privileges through good behavior.

The Barbour administration did not publicize the pardons, which became public when family members notified the media. The Mississippi Secretary of State's office released copies of the pardons Monday afternoon. They show Barbour has pardoned at least five men.

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.

Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps said Monday afternoon that the inmates were released Sunday.

The 40-year-old Gatlin was sentenced to life in prison in the 1993 slaying of Tammy Ellis Gatlin and the shooting of Randy Walker, her long-time friend.

Walker's mother, Glenda Walker, said Monday that Gatlin shot his estranged wife while she was holding their young baby, then shot her son in the head.

"He left that little baby on his dead mother's body," Glenda Walker said. "It was a horrendous murder."

Randy Walker, who lives in Rankin County, said he voted for Barbour for governor in 2003 and 2007. Before Barbour's pardon of Gatlin, Walker said he would've supported Barbour for president, if Barbour had run.

"I'm totally disgusted," Walker said Monday. "I think Gov. Barbour at heart is a great man. I think he's done a lot of good for the state of Mississippi, but I think he's made a huge error here.... One man can't put you in jail. I don't think it's right for one man to remove you from jail."

Tiffany Ellis Brewer of Pearl, sister of Tammy Ellis Gatlin, said David Gatlin's release revived the grief for her family and Walker's family.

"It's liked it's happened all over again to us," Brewer said. "We can't do anything about our situation now because he's out, he's gone. But I don't want anyone in this world to feel the fear, the pain and the hurt that our families are feeling right now. Something needs to be done."

The Mississippi Parole Board turned down Gatlin on Dec. 27, according to a letter dated Jan. 4 and obtained by AP. The letter did not explain why the Parole Board rejected Gatlin's parole request. It said he was due for another parole hearing in October.

Shannon Warnock, chair of the parole board, didn't immediately respond to a message Monday.

Other victims' relatives said they were also shocked by Barbour's pardons.

Joann Martin, a probation officer from Fort Worth, Texas, said Anthony McCray killed her sister.

McCray pleaded guilty in 2001 to killing Jennifer Bonds McCray, 38, at Ramsey's Cafe in McComb. The couple apparently had been arguing before the shooting. He left the cafe and returned with a gun. Jennifer McCray was shot once in the back.

"It's very painful for my family that he was released. When he killed her, she had a 3-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son, who have been raised by my other sister," Martin said. "It's a shame before God. It's almost like you kill somebody and nobody cares."

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.

Members of the Mississippi House Democratic Caucus held a press conference at the Mississippi Capitol Rotunda and called for limits on governors' ability to pardon inmates. They said they would introduce legislation this year.

Mark McAbee said Barbour pardoned the man who killed his uncle, Ricky Montgomery.

McAbee said Ozment was sentenced to life in 1994 for the slaying, which happened during a robbery with several other men.

"One of the other ones shot my uncle three times. He was crawling toward Joseph Ozment for help. He didn't know Joseph Ozment was involved. He was crawling to him for help. Joseph Ozment put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger twice," McAbee said.

He called the pardon "a slap in the face."

Barbour created a similar stir by releasing convicted killer Michael Graham in 2008. Barbour later defended "the custom" of governors reducing the sentences of the mansion's inmate workers if they behave.

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.

Epps, the corrections commissioner, told the AP in 2008 that the inmates who end up working at the Governor's Mansion are often convicted murderers because they are the ones who serve long enough sentences to build the trust needed for such a task.

Epps said Monday he wasn't taking a position on the practice of governors granting pardons, but pointed out that governors in Mississippi for decades have used their powers to let prisoners out early, including Governor's Mansion trusties convicted of serious crimes such as murder. He said he can't remember a case in which one of them committed another serious crime.

"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."

___

Associated Press Writer Emily Wagster Pettus contributed to this report.
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myops2
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January 14, 2012
I hope for the sake of the families of victims and for the sake of justice the pardons of murderers can and will be reversed. I can only imagine the feeling of the victims. I know there are people in prison who probably made a dumb mistake when they were young and I would be ok with their pardons but to set a murderer free is horrible.
eagle94
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January 10, 2012
"Tradition" is no excuse for an individual to assume their judgement is superior to that of a judge and jury.
Lisa49
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January 10, 2012
Notice no reporter is asking the people running for the nomination who they are planning to pardon.
tickhill
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January 10, 2012
Talk about running an 8 year race and then falling on your face at the finish line.

Wonder how the lobbying firm Haley is going to work for feels about his last actions as Governor?
jasonlp
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January 10, 2012
You know I have no problem with inmates being able to get a pardon, but it's a different story when you have violent criminals. Why not do this for someone with white collar criminals or those with really long sentences for drug charges?
LogicalLeo
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January 09, 2012
Dang it Dweisel, how do you REALLY feel about our gov?
weirdharold
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January 09, 2012
So long as we place our lives in the hands of personalities and forget about principles, we are doomed.
Dweisel
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January 09, 2012
I am appalled at the comments in this thread. Is there anyone in the world surprised? It is an old and rich tradition. Bill Clinton, through his scumbag wife's scumbag brother Hugh Rodham sold pardons. In 2001 Hugh Rodham received around $400,000 for legal services regarding gaining the Presidential pardon of fraudulent businessman Glen Braswell and drug trafficker Carlos Vignali.

Am I the only person that remembers Gerald Ford pardoning Richard Nixon IN ADVANCE of any charges? It is a venerable tradition in our country.

What makes it disgusting for Pig Boy is that like his soul brother Greg Davis the soon to be erstwhile governor makes much ado about "law and order." Law and order is only as good for Pig Boy as the bucks in brings in or the polictical favor it curries.

Here's the take-home lesson all you whiners: the "ole boy" system by definition means it is not what you know but who you know. It's designed to keep some citizens powerless.

It seems like a good idea so long as you can delude yourself that you are part of the master group (tribe, race, class, party, club, religion). Problem is there are few openings in the "he's one of us" club.

Most of us are at the mercy of scumbags like Pig Boy and Bill Clinton but few realize it.

The best way of dealing with Hailey Barbour is depersonalize him into a two-legged pig, over-fed and disgusting in every respect. Then he, Satan among us, attains the buffoon status he so richly deserves. There is a reason God made Pig Boy look so disgusting (to give His children fair warning).
Johnl
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January 09, 2012
Dewisel,

Would you say this if you were standing in front of this man, or would you hide behind your screen name. Just wondering what kind of may you are.
Johnl
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January 10, 2012
Dewisel,

With all that education, you still can't answer a simple question. I would bet yu would not stand in front of this old man and talk about his Children.

You go and eat your fish heads and rice. You will go to bed tonight a flithy little yellow beannie head slant eyed chinaman, with and education that a poor man like me from Mississippi paid for. Don't make you a better man.

One thing you could learn from a ninth grade drop-out, first one that loses his cool loses the war. later
Dweisel
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January 10, 2012
@ Johnl,

Mr, Education Chinaman went to sleep for a while. He's old and morning prayer comes early for us Muslims. I repeat: How many of your $4 million did you give away last year to some undeserving person who can never repay you? How many teeth do you have? How long have you been married to the same person? How many languages do your children speak? Tell me about THEIR accomplishments. If you are white and born in the USA making money is the easy part. How did you spend it?

Your response answered my questions: You have poor dentition, a broken marriage and your kids are losers. Good, leave to them your wealth and further poison their lives.

Apologize? Uh-uh. Spend a few of your four million bucks and hire a tutor to learn how to read and write at least one language.

Cats? Not a chance. I'm having a nice bowl of rice with fish heads for breakfast. Where are those chopsticks? Then prayer time. Allah akbar, y'all!
Johnl
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January 09, 2012
Looks like Mr education chinaman has nothing to say. He hides behind a screen name and calls us hard working Americans names. He should go back to china and cook csome cats at the chineese resturant. Did I spell that right chinaman. or you still got your pigtails in a wad? You need to leave America andlet us white rednecks run this country. how bout that!!!!!
Johnl
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January 09, 2012
A little upset are we dewees, My money is enough to buy me a little cornbread and turnip greens, and thats good with me. Sorry you hate us Americans so much, mabe you need to take that slow boat to China. might make you a little happier. now apoligize, again
Johnl
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January 09, 2012
I did not ask you to write a book dewisel, I just ask if you were man enough to stand in front of him and say this. I dont like him either. You are not much of a man. I still like most of your post

Dweisel
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January 09, 2012
One more thing. How could any right-thinking Christian, Muslim, or Jew take issue with anything I have said about lower-than-a-snake's belly Hailey, the Yazoo Pig Boy, Barbour. It's all true. He knows it. You know it.

As for you and your little $hit-a$$ $4 million. Dick Scruggs gave $40 million to Ole Miss. Jim Barksdale disposed of a BILLION to various philanthropies and desires to die broke. Four million is a half-dozen cruise missiles fired blindly from a DG in the Persian Gulf, likely as not missing their targets.

Here are the questions:: How many of your $4 million did you give away last year to some undeserving person who can never repay you? How many teeth do you have? How long have you been married to the same person? How many languages do your children speak? Tell me about THEIR accomplishments. If you are white and born in the USA making money is the easy part. How did you spend it?

You can call me whatever you wish but you can't call me liberal and you can't say I'm a stinking Democrat or on welfare. I'm neither, but I am not one of you, nor do I desire to be.
Dweisel
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January 09, 2012
If you think Pig Boy is not able to learn my name if he were to think me, or my comments on what should be obvious to anyone, mattered to him enough -- which they do not -- then you really are stupid.

No what you just confessed is, that despite your purported 4 million dollar net worth, or should I say BECAUSE of your prosperity, you buy into the big lie, "we" are better than them. And there sir, is the function of education, to civilize us. Pig Boy and you have money but you have no taste, no class, and are deficient in humanity.

Tell you what else, see how many of those Yankee dollars Lucifer lets you carry into Hell. Not one and nary a clod of dirt. I don't have, nor do I wish to have, one cent more than I can spend before I die.

I am okay with myself, thanks for asking.
americasgone
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January 09, 2012
Hey ole yeller, what do you look like in your little beanie cap?
Johnl
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January 09, 2012
opps, that should have been Man, sorry about the spelling Dewisel, but we are in the South

SouthernAmerican
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January 10, 2012
You lost Mr Dewisel.....now you can sitdown and shut up....with all thet education, still can't compete with that old white man....heheehe
Mommasita
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January 09, 2012
For the most part I have always voted Republican, but this is horrible, no matter which party you are. The governor and any other public official needs to stick to what they were elected to do and let the judges take care of what we elected them to do.

smartyculottes
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January 09, 2012
This is disgusting. I can't imagine how the families of the victims feel.
LogicalLeo
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January 09, 2012
This is definitely NOT a good tradition! By the way, the word is "trustee(s)" - pronounced trustE or trustEEZ.
Dawg11
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January 09, 2012
This is at least the sixth time he's pardoned a convicted murderer who worked at the Governor's Mansion.
Tupelo12
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January 09, 2012
Wow, I know where to go if I ever get convicted for murder. A person who works at the governor's mansion has a better chance of getting off than a person who's been wrongly convicted and is sitting on death row, in this State anyway.