Ex-Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s Pardons Cause Families to Fear Revenge

Jan 12, 2012 7:19pm

They are reeling in Mississippi and the pardon no one can forgive is David Gatlin.

Gatlin shot his wife dead with their son in her arms and walked out of jail a free man last week, the beneficiary of one of about 200 pardons or early releases granted by former Gov. Haley Barbour during his last days in office.

Gatlin was freed before the courts could step in and halt the release, and tonight no one knows where he is.

His wife’s sister worried he’ll come back to the family to finish the deed. She said Barbour is a coward for freeing these men and then disappearing.

It’s now clear that Gatlin and three other convicted murderers were given a get- out-of-jail free card because they worked in the governor’s kitchen and washed his cars.

ap haley barbour protesters thg 1210112 wblog Ex Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbours Pardons Cause Families to Fear Revenge

Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Miss., right, stands with relatives of victims including Betty Ellis, mother of murdered Tammy Ellis Gatlin, left, and gunshot survivor Randy Walker, both victims of recently pardoned killer David Gatlin, to call for an end to such end-of-tenure pardons by outgoing governors, the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Jan 9, 2012. (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Lawmakers are now looking for ways to limit the power of the pardon and, at the same time, block those four pardons and nearly 200 others.

“The public doesn’t get it. I don’t get it either,” said attorney Mark Mayfield. “Haley has done a lot of great things, but I’m afraid that in the large measure this will tarnish his image as he goes forward.”

Barbour, an outspoken tough-on-crime crusader, never has been afraid to speak his mind — until now.

ABC News went looking for the former governor at his new law firm, trying to get an answer for the frightened families crying for a reasonable explanation. Instead we were shown the door.

In a brief written statement Wednesday night, Barbour said “about 90 percent of these individuals were no longer in custody, and a majority of them had been out for years.”

But that was not the case for the murderers who worked at the governor’s mansion. They had been sentenced to life.

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