It's one of those gubernatorial prerogatives that always elicits incredulous groans. Even so, it is a well-ensconced tradition all across the nation. In his final days as Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour gave pardons or clemency to hundreds of convicted felons, including 29 convicted of murder, manslaughter or homicide.
Itís one of those gubernatorial prerogatives that always elicits incredulous groans. Even so, it is a well-ensconced tradition all across the nation. In his final days as Mississippi governor, Haley Barbour gave pardons or clemency to hundreds of convicted felons, including 29 convicted of murder, manslaughter or homicide.
This ignoble tradition draws so much ire because there are few repercussions for governors about to embark upon the great egress. For all those state executives preparing to let the jail doors swing wide, we have two words: Wayne Dumond. If you donít remember, Dumondís early release was hastened by a lethal cocktail of over-eager Bill Clinton haters, an ascendant Mike Huckabeeís presidential campaign and a state parole board clearly mired in issues of governmental opacity.
At the center of the morass was the obviously psychopathic Wayne Dumond. The convicted murderer gained early parole in 1999. He moved to Missouri in August 2000, got married and stayed out of the public light for a couple of months. On June 22, 2001, Dumond was arrested and charged with the September 20, 2000, rape and murder of Carol Sue Shields. DuMond was convicted in the summer of 2003.
By the time cancer punched his ticket at the Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri, charges were being prepared for another rape and murder. Sara Andrasek, who was in the early stages of pregnancy, was murdered the day before Dumondís arrest for the murder of Carol Sue Shields.
You donít have to wander too far down the metaphorical path before the Frankenstein analogy comes into view. Huckabee ó for motivations about which we can only speculate ó released a raging failure of humanity onto the people of Arkansas and Missouri. The monster did what monsters do and nobody was surprised.
With all that in mind, we applaud Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood, who asked the courts to grant a temporary injunction to block the release of 21 inmates who had been given pardons or medical release.
Hood argued that Barbour violated the Mississippi state constitution by failing to give adequate public notice before inmates were released. The notices, which must be placed in a newspaper for all to see, are designed to make victims and their families aware that the felon is being freed. Barbour countered that many of those pardoned were no longer in custody.
In turn, we would ask: How many does it take? While the courts sift through the wreckage, at least one of the now-freed convicted murderers has taken leave to parts unknown. The Barbour parole controversy has a couple of other numerical dimensions as well. Barbour is reported to have granted 222 pardons, commutations and suspensions. This extraordinary number begs the question of gubernatorial power. In other words, how many is ďtoo many?Ē
Of course, Barbour defended his decisions and stated that he was confident they were all valid. Maybe so, but thereís a noteworthy subtext undergirding those pardoned: race. According to Reuters, about two-thirds of the pardons went to current or former white prisoners, while two-thirds of Mississippiís prison population is black. Through a spokesperson, Barbour said that race played no factor in the decisions.
Sure. Race played no part in itÖ just like politics played no part in Dumondís untimely release. Itís all just a big coincidence. Somehow that doesnít make us feel any safer.