Mississippi Supreme Court to decide on Barbour pardons

STARKVILLE, Miss Thu Feb 2, 2012 10:17am EST

Law enforcement photos show Anthony McCray (L-R), David Glenn Gatlin, Joseph Ozment and Charles Hooker, some of the prisoners pardoned by former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. REUTERS/Mississippi Department of Corrections

Law enforcement photos show Anthony McCray (L-R), David Glenn Gatlin, Joseph Ozment and Charles Hooker, some of the prisoners pardoned by former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

Credit: Reuters/Mississippi Department of Corrections

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STARKVILLE, Miss (Reuters) - The Mississippi Supreme Court said on Wednesday that it will decide whether a lower court has the authority to block pardons issued by former Governor Haley Barbour, including some to convicted murderers.

William L. Waller Jr, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, ordered a February 9 hearing in the case involving 10 pardons issued by Barbour.

Barbour, a conservative Republican who considered running for the White House last year, sparked an uproar when he granted more than 200 pardons as he left office in January after eight years as governor.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, the only statewide elected Democrat, questioned more than 100 pardons Barbour granted. Hood said that those receiving the pardons did not meet a state constitutional requirement that notice of the application for a pardon be published for 30 days.

Hood sought to block some of the pardons in Hinds County Circuit Court and a hearing on that request was scheduled for Friday. But the Supreme Court decision to hear the case supersedes the county court hearing.

Tom Fortner, an attorney representing four pardoned men who requested the Supreme Court review, said the county court did not have the authority to decide the issue.

"They (Supreme Court) are taking the issues we've raised very seriously and will give them consideration," Fortner said.

Barbour has defended the pardons, saying the people receiving them had redeemed themselves, and he accused Hood of trying to score political points.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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