In his final days as Mississippi governor, Republican Haley Barbour gave pardons or early release to dozens of people, including 29 whose crimes were listed as murder, manslaughter or homicide, state records show.
A list provided by the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday, the day Barbour left office, showed some of the convicted killers were pardoned, while others were given medical or conditional releases. He had released five other convicted killers in 2008.
Relatives of crime victims had voiced outrage Monday after it was revealed that the two-term governor had pardoned four convicted murderers. Those men had worked at the Governor’s Mansion as part of a prison trusty program.
A complete list was disclosed Tuesday, the day that Barbour’s successor, Republican Phil Bryant was sworn in at the state Capitol. Barbour, a Republican, served two terms and couldn’t run again due to term limits.
On the way into the Mississippi House chamber for his successor’s inauguration, Barbour had no comment when asked by The Associated Press about the pardons.
“It’s Phil Bryant’s day,” Barbour said in response to repeated questions from the AP about what he would say to the victims’ relatives.
On Monday, state officials revealed that Barbour had given pardons to five men and that they’d been released.
The former inmates are David Gatlin, convicted of killing his estranged wife in 1993 as she held a baby; 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.
In addition to those convicted of crimes of manslaughter and murder, records show Barbour gave early release to people convicted of drug crimes, DUI deaths, burglary and kidnapping, among others.
Among those granted a full pardon by Barbour was Azikiwe Kambule, a South African man whose manslaughter conviction in a 1996 Mississippi carjacking and slaying drew international attention because he was a teenager when the crime was committed and prosecutors had originally sought the death penalty. In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Kambule, who wanted to withdraw his guilty plea.
Prosecutors said Kambule and Santonia Berry killed social worker Pamela McGill in Madison County on Jan. 25, 1996, because they wanted the Jackson woman’s red 1993 Dodge Stealth sports car. Her body was found nine weeks later when Berry led authorities to it. Defense lawyers said there was no evidence Kambule fired the shots that killed McGill.
Kambule argued in court documents that he knew nothing of the U.S. justice system when he entered into a deal in 1997 to plead guilty to charges in the death of McGill and to accept a 35-year sentence.
Kambule had come to Mississippi two years earlier, when his mother began studying psychology at Jackson State University. His mother and stepfather returned to South Africa several years ago after briefly living in Atlanta.
Although prosecutors sought the death penalty, a Madison County judge ruled Kambule’s sentence could not be harsher than that for Berry, the admitted triggerman. Berry received a life sentence without parole after pleading guilty to capital murder.
Kambule was sentenced to 30 years for armed carjacking and five years to being an accessory after a murder. He did not appeal the sentence.
Barbour gave conditional clemency to Karen Irby, a Jackson socialite who pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter in a Feb. 11, 2009, wreck that killed two young physicians who were engaged to each other.
Irby admitted in court that she had two glasses of wine and was going faster than the speed limit when she drove her car into oncoming traffic in northeast Jackson. The Mercedes-Benz driven by Irby hit a pickup truck driven by Dr. Mark Pogue. His fiancee, Dr. Lisa Dedousis, was a passenger in Pogue’s truck. Both physicians were killed.
In March 2010, Irby, then 39, pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter. In May 2010, she was sentenced to 18 years for each count, with the prison terms to run at the same time.
Barbour released Irby on the condition that she serve three years of house arrest and two years after that under Department of Corrections supervision.
Perhaps the most unusual use of clemency powers during Barbour’s administration came in 2010, when he released two sisters on the condition that one donate a kidney to the other.
Jamie and Gladys Scott had served nearly 16 years of their life sentences for an armed robbery when they were released from a prison in central Mississippi on Jan. 7, 2011. Barbour granted Jamie Scott an early release because she suffers from kidney failure. He agreed to let Gladys Scott go because she came up with the idea of giving her sister a kidney.
Civil rights advocates claim the sisters, who are black, had been given overly harsh sentences.
Not long after their release, the sisters, who had moved to Pensacola, Fla., said the operation was on hold until one of them quit smoking and they could lose a combined 160 pounds.
The sisters’ attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, said Tuesday that one of the sisters has to lose more weight before doctors will perform the operation. Lumumba said he had asked Barbour for a full pardon, but did not get a response.
“There should be no impediments to it. They have been working. They are in school. They have been doing everything they are supposed to do,” Lumumba said.
The sisters were not pardoned, according to the list released Tuesday.
Barbour is a conservative who considered running for president in this year’s GOP primary, before deciding against it. Like many Republicans, Barbour has taken a tough stance on crime at times. But he also signed legislation in 2008 that made thousands of nonviolent inmates eligible to be considered for parole after serving a portion of their sentence. That legislation was aimed at easing crowded conditions in the state’s prisons and saving money.
The men and women on death row have not benefited from the governor’s clemency power under Barbour. Nine men were executed during his time in office. He spared none on death row.