Courts & Crime

Mississippi's Barbour pardons more than 200 as he leaves office

JACKSON -- In his final hours as governor Tuesday, Haley Barbour granted clemency to more than 200 convicted criminals -- murderers, rapists, robbers and even a cattle rustler -- even as victims’ families, lawmakers and the public have expressed outrage over other pardons in recent days.

“I’m just sick -- I don’t know what else to say,” said Tonya Simpson of Lucedale, whose father was shot and killed by her stepmother, Patricia L. Simpson, in 2003.

Patricia Simpson had been serving a manslaughter sentence since 2008. Barbour freed her Tuesday with a “conditional indefinite suspension of sentence.” Tonya Simpson said her family over Thanksgiving found out Patricia Simpson was seeking clemency. Tonya said she and family and friends had been calling and faxing the Governor’s Office since then lobbying against the release, but had gotten no response. She learned of Patricia Simpson’s release from the Sun Herald on Tuesday.

It was unclear late Tuesday, after Barbour’s clemency records were released, how many convicts were simply having their records cleared after serving time and how many were being released, but many were being sprung. Some on the list are apparently deceased and their families had lobbied the governor to clear their records. But he has granted clemency recently to 30 whose convictions are for murder, homicide or manslaughter, in addition to six convicted murderers to whom he granted clemency in previous years.

Barbour has refused to comment on his recent clemency orders. His office in recent days hasn’t returned calls or emails, and after a brief appearance at the Capitol for Gov. Phil Bryant’s inauguration, Barbour appeared to dodge the media.

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