Posted Feb 10, 2012 09:45 pm CST
The Mississippi Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday on the constitutionality of outgoing former Gov. Haley Barbour’s mass pardon of state prison inmates.
The arguments concerned only 10 of the nearly 200 pardons Barbour issued in his closing days as governor, but the outcome could apply to many of the other pardons, as well, the New York Times reports.
The motives behind the pardons are not at issue. The case involves a technical question about a section of the state constitution that gives pardon power exclusively to the governor. The section says that no pardon shall be granted until the applicant publishes a petition for a pardon for 30 days in a newspaper in the county where the crime occurred.
State Attorney General Jim Hood contends that only 22 of the pardoned inmates met that requirement. The rest, including the 10 whose cases were before the court Thursday, are invalid, he says.
“I believe there’s been a violation of the people’s constitutional rights, and I believe this court has a duty to correct it,” he told the court.
Barbour and the pardoned inmates contend that the constitution not only gives the governor the sole authority to grant pardons, but also the power to decide whether the publication requirement has been met.
“This case is about the separation of powers under the Mississippi constitution,” Charles Griffin, a lawyer for Barbour, told the court.
The court could decide that the pardons are not subject to review by the courts, which would end the matter. But if it decides that they are, the cases would probably be sent back to the trial court, where the legitimacy of scores of other pardons could also be challenged.