When juries convicted four murderers and sent them to prison they never dreamed Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour would pardon them. Especially the jurors who convicted Joseph Ozmont for shooting a helpless man in the face as he crawled toward him for aid.
Several Wichita Falls citizens were disappointed today to hear an appeals court in Mississippi upheld the pardons as valid Thursday.
Ozmont of course did not share their disappointment. He could be heard heaving a huge sigh of relief all the way from Wyoming where he now is free to roam the highways and byways of that state or any other state including Texas.
Rick Montgomery was a 40-year old store clerk in 1992 when three men brazenly entered his business and shot him twice. Not realizing Ozmont was one of the group that robbbed him, he crawled across the floor toward him for help after he’d been shot twice by the accomplices. In one of the more brutal murders in recent history Ozmont shot him in the face.
A relative of the clerk was outraged at news of the pardon and admitted members of his family were now in fear for their lives.
One local law enforcement official said that at least with Rick Perry as governor in Texas, Wichitans didn’t have to worry about wholesale pardons of violent criminals convicted in Wichita Falls courtrooms.
Former Governor Barbour defended his some 200 pardons including the four murderers when he left office on January 10, 2012.
Part of his justification was that sudden passion killers are not likely to be a future danger to society.
Wichita Falls police officers would not agree with that. It is common knowledge domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous law enforcement men and women are called upon to handle.
One of the convicted murderers Barbour pardoned shot his ex-wife in the head as she held their baby in her arms. Randy Walker, who was standing near Tammy Gatlin, said pardoned David Gatlin shot him after shooting his wife. The bullet which killed Tammy missed Gatlin’s baby by inches.
All four of the pardoned murderers worked as trustees at the Governor’s Mansion.
Brett Favre’s brother was among the pardoned. He was convicted of manslaughter for driving his car in front of a train while he was intoxicated. The passenger in his automobile was killed.
The appeals court in Mississippi ruled Governor Barbour was within his rights to determine who should be pardoned.
American presidents and governors have long made a habit of pardoning murderers, drug dealers, rapists and other assorted criminals on the day they leave office. That way they don’t have to face the wrath of voters in future elections.
Victims and relatives of victims have no recourse other than to express their frustration and anger in the wake of pardons.
The only solution is for legislative bodies to pass laws limiting the powers of presidents and governors to pardon criminals.