Pardoning killers reopens old wounds for families of victims

Published 2:59 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The gesture of a posthumous pardon is one thing.

Pardoning convicted killers and setting them free is another.

Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned four convicted murderers — one of whom confessed to shooting his wife to death after an argument — as one of his last official acts as governor. …

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Families of the victims got the grim news, reopening old wounds that likely will never fully heal anyway.

They’re afraid. They’re hurt.

We feel their pain. And we question the long-standing practice.

Prior to Barbour’s tenure, Mississippi governors had given early release to 10 convicted murders since 1988.

They, like the men pardoned by Barbour, also served as Governor’s Mansion trusties. Trusties are inmates who’ve earned special privileges for good behavior.

Local jails also utilize the trusty system. Trusties are often seen at the courthouse or sheriff’s department cleaning or helping with other tasks.

The inmates Barbour pardoned are David Gatlin, convicted of killing his estranged wife; Joseph Ozment, convicted of killing a man during a robbery; Anthony McCray, convicted of killing his wife; Charles Hooker, sentenced to life for murder; and Nathan Kern, sentenced, as a habitual offender, to life for burglary.

Our judicial system is not perfect. But when a 12-person jury finds a person guilty of murder or when he confesses to it, serving drinks and cleaning at the Governor’s Mansion is not enough restitution to set him free — regardless of how good his behavior is.

The deceased are not the only victims. And those victims still mourning the loss of a loved one have already suffered enough.

Trials can be painful, and jurors struggle internally to make the right decision. All for naught.

These lame-duck pardons have become a part of the fabric of Mississippi. It’s a piece we’d like to see torn out.


The Dispatch