Haley Barbour: A Fool and his Felon Friends

Two weeks ago, I traveled to the great state of Mississippi for the first time to attend my nephew’s wedding in the insanely small town of Shubuta. Seriously, look it up. Actually, we darted willy-nilly between the three booming metropolises of Shubuta, Waynesboro, and Clara over that two-day dash. Covered plenty of ground, particularly two-lane roads that had no line in the middle (that was a novelty). But really, Mississippi is not all that different than South Carolina, geographically or otherwise. I grew up hearing the South Carolinian joke about “Thank God for Mississippi,” and though I’ not sure us Sandlappers should be getting so uppity, the sentiment resonates with me nonetheless. I really didn’t like that whole bit about no lines in the road. Some people (my dad) need those lines.

But what I didn’t know two weeks ago was that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour was just days from ending his term and turning the office over to newly elected Phil Bryant. Why did I not know this? Probably because I don’t care. But alas, I think it suddenly matters to me more now. 

Newly minted Governor Phil Bryant’s entrance into the storied asylum of deep south politics was overshadowed by the fact that the honorable ex-Governor Barbour ended his term by pardoning 199 different criminals. Fabulous! Because from what I saw at that small-town Walmart, they’re a few short of the “Town Crazy” quotient. This should mop that up in short order. Oh, but seriously: What the —-? 

This is exactly the kind of guy that I want to see roaming around in downtown Shubuta or some similar locale – 

I mean really, he looks like a nice young fellow, doesn’t he? This is 40 year-old David Gatlin. David is a jerk, first and foremost, because he shot and killed his estranged wife Tammy in 1993 while she was holding a newborn baby. I’m sure there are other reasons he’s a jerk, of course. Now, Dave here was sentenced to life in prison, and was denied parole this very month. But none of that matters now, because Haley Barbour thought the guy was pretty nice and a hard worker, and well, geez…can’t we just forget about that whole putting-a-bullet-in-his-wife-business? I mean, come ‘aaaaaaan.

At least on parole, psychos like this guy would have to check in with the judicial system. But now that his slate has essentially been wiped clean, he can do anything he wants, including buy a gun, vote, run for office, or live right next door to the family of the woman he murdered. David Gatlin is one of the two dozen people in that 200-person pardon round up whose crimes were listed as murder, homocide, or manslaughter. Others were rapists and armed robbers. Some were drug criminals and DUI convicts. Many were bribery, forgery, and other similar (non-violent) charges. But really, it’s the violent and deadly ones I’m fired up about, so let’s not split hairs. Some pardons were conditional, but in reality, the majority were full and unconditional – meaning they’re free to walk out and start right back up on their straight and narrow path.

Note: When I say “slate wiped clean,” I mean it. Upon further investigation of the issue, pardons are an unchecked part of the rights of a head of state (such as a Governor or President). There is no overturning of a pardon, no reversing, no recourse. As in, the criminal record no longer exists, no buts about it.

You can read the entire rundowns of pardons Barbour issued during his time as Governor of MS, including the ones issued yesterday, here. Some other brief highlights of Barbour’s inexplicable gutting of both the judicial system and the idea of basic human rights:

  • A full pardon of the brother of NFL quarterback and Southern Mississippi star Brett Favre, Scott Favre. Scott drove in front of a train in Pass Christian while under the influence back in 1996, resulting in the death of his best friend Mark Haverty. Favre was sentenced in 1997 to a year of house arrest plus two years’ probation. I’m not even sure what the heck the point was for this other than to say to people “Hey, if your brother is good enough at throwing balls, we’ll relieve you of a conviction on your record that is over 15 years old and for which you’ve already served the sentence.”
  • Anthony McCray, who killed his wife in 2001.
  • Joseph Ozment, convicted of killing a man during a 1994 robbery.
  • Charles Hooker, sentenced to life for a 1992 murder.
  • Nathan Kern, sentenced to life in 1982 for a burglary that took place after at least two prior convictions.
  • Azikiwe Kambule and Santonia Berry, both convicted in the 1996 death of Pamela McGill, the victim of a car jacking by the two aforementioned brainiacs. The targeted auto in the case: A 1993 Dodge Stealth. Totally worth killing someone.
Probably the most INSANE part of this whole bit was, when he was questioned repeatedly about this blatant disregard for public safety, victims’ rights, and just general common sense, Barbour had this sociopathic reply:

“It’s Phil Bryant’s day.”

What, like it’s a special Governors-only holiday where you just take a vacation from having any semblance of a conscience, or silly things like morals and ethics? Right. And this is just flat-out strange when you consider that uber-conservative Republicans like Barbour was in office typically err on the side of keeping prisoners in prison and having them serve their time to the very last moment.

Err…that is…

Unless of course you’re a large group of prison “trustees” (which seems a very illogical and backwards job title to me on a whole other ideological level) who have nice personalities (other than having shot yo’ woman down). Then…well, it’s okay. Call me narrow-minded, but I always thought roadside trash pick-up and general manual labor was best suited for convicts, while service at the Governor’s Mansion should perhaps be reserved for people who…ya know…don’t kill people. Hmm.

There is absolutely no redemptive value in pardoning this amount of violent, lethal offenders (or, ya know…any). Many of those pardoned for murders and homicides actually PLEAD GUILTY. It also says quite a lot about how Haley Barbour views women when the large majority of the field of murder/homicide convictions he pardoned were in cases where men killed their wives or girlfriends.

So, needless to say, I think Haley Barbour sucks. At life. And I sincerely hope that if this windbag ever seeks public office again (God help us), people will not forget this stunt.

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