Hood will pursue ballot initiative on pardons

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Attorney General Jim Hood, still stinging from Thursday’s 6-3 Supreme Court decision upholding former Gov. Haley Barbour’s pardon of 203 convicted felons, said Friday he would proceed with efforts to amend the Constitution to prevent future “abuse” of the pardon authority.
Hood said he planned to work with victims’ rights groups and law enforcement to gather enough signatures to place on the election ballot an initiative to address the court ruling.
“This will be my first attempt to kick one off,” Hood said of the process that would require garnering about 100,000 signatures of registered voters to place an issue on the ballot.
Hood said he believes the Constitution is clear that before a pardon can be granted, a 30-day notice must be given in a newspaper near where the crime was committed. But the majority essentially ruled that only the governor had the authority to determine if notice was given, and if the governor granted a pardon, the judiciary did not have the authority to second guess the decision.
The minority argued the judiciary had a duty to reverse erroneous constitutional interpretations.
Hood said at the very least the initiative to amend the Constitution would state the courts “shall” enforce the 30-day notice.
“The people deserve to know what he (the governor) is contemplating,” Hood said.
He said some victims’ groups might want to go further than just instructing the courts to enforce the 30-day notice and add other provisions, such as setting up a commission to consider possible pardons, instead of a single individual.
He said the 30-day notice was added to the 1890 Constitution because of “abuses” of the pardon power by the governor.
“Now we have another case of abuse,” he said.
Barbour has said he issued the pardons because he believes in Christian forgiveness. He said the court ruling “reaffirms” a century of “settled law.”
Hood did not rule out the possibility of the Constitution being amended through the legislative process, though all the proposals in the 2012 session dealing with the issue died earlier this month.
The four people who received the pardons who are still in custody are scheduled to be released this weekend.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com