By Jack Elliot Jr./The Associated Press
JACKSON — Amid controversy over pardons issued by then-Gov. Haley Barbour, inmate trusties will no longer work at Mississippi’s Governor’s Mansion.
Gov. Phil Bryant, who had already stopped the practice of inmate trusties living at the Governor’s Mansion, ended a decades-old program Thursday of allowing trusties to work there. The announcement comes after criticism of Barbour’s decision Jan. 6 to pardon four murderers and one robber who were mansion trusties during his second term.
Gov. Bryant’s decision means six inmates assigned to the mansion since Jan. 3 will be transferred by the Department of Corrections to other work programs. Those inmates were already being transported each day from the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County to the mansion for work. Their duties included general maintenance and landscaping.
“As governor, Bryant first discontinued the practice of inmates spending the night on the mansion grounds and then the tradition of pardoning those individuals. Lastly, Governor Bryant stated that he would work towards phasing out the use of trusties at the mansion and that last phase of Bryant’s plan was completed,” Bryant’s spokesman Mick Bullock said in a statement.
Bipartisan groups of legislators propose changing the constitution or state laws to limit the gubernatorial pardon power.
Bryant has said he favors some sort of limits. For example, he said he might favor a constitutional amendment that would allow a governor to singlehandedly grant pardons only in cases in which there’s clear evidence of innocence. Otherwise, Bryant said it might be best to have a board review pardon requests and make recommendations.
Of the six inmates being sent away from the mansion, four are serving life sentences for murder. The six trusties are:
— Michael Bolton, 36, who began serving a life sentence in 1998 for his role in the murder of Rickey L. Spratt, a taxi driver, during a 1996 robbery.
— Vernon Catchings, 57, who began serving a life sentence in 1993 for the murder of Major Cassidy on Nov. 3, 1990. The two got into a fight at convenience store. Cassidy died later of his injuries.
— Ryan Crick, 29, who began serving a 60-year sentence in 2009 for three counts of aggravated DUI and one count of leaving the scene of an accident involving injury or death. Crick, then a state game warden, had been drinking when he drove his friend’s Jeep Wrangler with three passengers. The Jeep veered off the road and overturned and two of the passengers died.
— Terrance George, 35, who is serving an 18-year sentence for two counts of sale of cocaine.
— Joseph Horton, 66, who began serving life sentences in 1995 for the murders of Troy Smith and Clinton Harris during an altercation at a bar.
— Boman Tanner, 45, who is serving a life sentence after he was convicted in 1997 of the murder of Verna Wood, his elderly Jackson neighbor who caught him in her home.