Politics & Government

Mississippi's Barbour creates furor with release of inmate

BILOXI, Miss. — Gov. Haley Barbour said Thursday his office will do a better job of responding to public comment if he pardons or suspends the sentence of an inmate.

Barbour made that promise after he caused a maelstrom last week in South Mississippi when he freed Michael David Graham, imprisoned for life for stalking and killing his ex-wife in 1989 at a busy intersection in Pascagoula.

One of the criticisms of Barbour's decision has been his lack of response to the calls, e-mails and letters from people asking him to reconsider. "Obviously we didn't have a very good system for responding to the public comment," he told the Sun Herald. "We'll get to the bottom of that and get that straightened out."

But Sheriff Mike Byrd, who called Barbour to ask him to reconsider, said that's not enough in this case. "I have all the respect for the governor, but I'd like him to reconsider and put that man back in prison," Byrd said. "He has no business being out in society."

Barbour said this was the first time for him to use his gubernatorial powers to suspend an inmate's life sentence, which is different from a pardon.

However, Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps said Barbour has used the power before — when Larry Harper, convicted in Scott County on charges of homicide, aggravated assault and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon in June 1999, was released in December 2006.

Read the full story at sunherald.com.