By Holbrook Mohr/The Associated Pres
JACKSON — Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said investigators have found a convicted killer who was pardoned by former Gov. Haley Barbour and had not checked in with authorities amid a pending legal challenge of Barbour’s pardons.
Hood made the announcement Monday at a news conference in his office.
There had been no warrant for convicted killer Joseph Ozment’s arrest, but he was served Monday with a court order that requires him to check in every 24 hours with the Mississippi Department of Corrections and to appear in court Friday.
Hood said Ozment was in Wyoming with his girlfriend. Hood said tips led investigators to him.
Ozment was among 198 people pardoned by Barbour in his final days in office.
Ozment and four other inmates, including three other convicted killers, had worked as trusties at the Governor’s Mansion. A judge had ordered them to check in with corrections officials and show up for a court hearing last week.
Ozment was the only one who didn’t show up. The judge didn’t issue a warrant because Ozment hadn’t been served with papers telling him to appear. Hood is trying get many of Barbour’s pardons thrown out.
Hood, a Democrat, had said his office was having a hard time finding Ozment and that his office was willing to pay confidential informants for information leading to him. Hood has said the fact that there was no warrant for Ozment’s arrest made it harder to find him because friends and relatives were not legally compelled to cooperate and couldn’t face charges for harboring him.
Hood is challenging the legality of dozens of Barbour’s pardons. He said about 170 people who got them did not meet the Mississippi Constitution’s requirement that a notice be published in a local newspaper for 30 days. Most had already served their sentences and had been out of prison for years. Some were convicted of drug charges or other comparatively minor crimes as far back as the 1960s and 1970s.
Some published notices for four weeks in weekly newspapers. Hood said four weeks is only 28 days, not the 30 days specified in the constitution, and that they should have published for five weeks. Others were published in daily newspapers but the ads didn’t run for a full 30 days before the pardon was signed. Hood has said about two dozen people published the proper notice.
Barbour, a Republican who considered running for president in 2012 before backing out, has accused Hood of partisan politics. Hood is the only Democrat in statewide office. Hood said Thursday that the issue has nothing to do with politics and that’s it’s a matter of the law.
Ozment was sentenced to life in prison in 1994 for the slaying of Ricky Montgomery during a robbery at a store in Desoto County.
Montgomery’s nephew, Mark McAbee, has said Ozment was among several people involved in the robbery.
“One of the other ones shot my uncle three times. He was crawling toward Joseph Ozment for help. He didn’t know Joseph Ozment was involved … Joseph Ozment put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger twice,” McAbee told The Associated Press earlier this month.
Hood would not say how much money he’d pay for information. He said that depended on how valuable the information turns out to be.