Mississippi inaugurated a new governor, Phil Bryant
, on Tuesday (January 10). But it was Bryant's predecessor, Haley Barbour, who stole the media spotlight after news emerged that he had issued a raft of controversial pardons on his way out the door.
Barbour, a Republican who was governor for eight years, waited until his last days in office to grant pardons or early releases "to nearly 200 people, including more than two dozen whose crimes were listed as murder, manslaughter or homicide," The Associated Press reports
. Those pardoned included convicted killers who had been employed at the governor's mansion as part of a prison work program, as well as criminals convicted of kidnapping, robbery, burglary and a host of drug and alcohol crimes.
Among those on the list is the brother of former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, a Mississippi native. Earnest Scott Favre "had his record cleared in the 1996 death of his best friend, Mark Haverty," the AP reports
. "Favre had driven in front of a train in Pass Christian while drunk, pleaded guilty in 1997, and was sentenced to a year of house arrest followed by two years' probation."
Victims' groups expressed outrage over Barbour's last-minute pardons and said they were not consulted prior to the decision. Asked about the move by the AP on Tuesday, Barbour declined to comment, saying, "It's Phil Bryant's day."
Pardon Power, a blog that deals exclusively with the use of federal and state clemency powers, notes that Barbour had previously used his clemency power just eight times since taking office in 2004
. The New York Times
reports that the pardons also stand in contrast to the practice of previous Mississippi governors, noting that Barbour's three predecessors issued full pardons among them to just 18 people