JACKSON — Attorney General Jim Hood has issued a statement denying former Gov. Haley Barbour’s allegation that one of the Attorney General’s Office staff members did not publicize Barbour’s last-minute pardons for former Governor’s Mansion trustees as called for by state law.
Hood wrote: “It is unfortunate that former Gov. Barbour has made some misrepresentations about the role of our attorney assigned to the Mississippi Department of Corrections. At no time did our assistant attorney general assigned to MDOC advise the governor or any of his assistants that there was no requirement for publication. The comments by former Gov. Barbour are a shameful attempt to deflect blame for his office’s failure to confirm that the requirements of the Constitution had been met.
“First, the special assistant attorney general, David Scott, whom the governor has supposedly relied upon, has only one client, the DOC; he is housed there and works together daily with the commissioner of corrections, Chris Epps. He is the MDOC lawyer. Scott is not counsel to the governor, who had his own three staff attorneys advising him.
“On Nov. 28, 2011, Scott texted Daryl Neely with the Governor’s Office and said, ‘Please refer to Section 124 of Constitution regarding pardons and notice.’” So, the governor and his staff and his attorneys were given the law at that time and had plenty of time to make sure publications were done properly before his term expired. So what did the governor and his staff do? Nothing. In fact, Daryl Neely told David Scott on Nov. 29 that the governor’s staff had discussed the Constitutional publishing requirements and ‘decided it wasn’t necessary.’
“Not until Dec. 6, after 5:03 p.m., (31 days before the pardons were issued), did Neely text back to David Scott that “‘top guy’ wants to go ahead and run notices” for mansion trusties, and a few minutes later provided a list of names. The next day, Dec. 7, 30 days before the pardons were actually issued, David Scott confirmed for his client, MDOC, that MDOC would take care of publication for the in-custody inmates. David Scott’s job was to advise MDOC, and their job is to run prisons, not to issue pardons.
Neither David Scott, nor the AG, nor any AG staff ever talked to an inmate or provided legal advice to an inmate. At the direction of DOC, David Scott did in fact refer the Governor’s Office to Section 124, which the governor chose to ignore. Later, David Scott passed along the ‘top guy’s’ last-minute request that MDOC do the task of getting the publications done.
“Finally, the Constitution puts the duty on the convict to make the newspaper publication, saying ‘no pardon shall be granted until the applicant therefor shall have published for thirty days, in some newspaper in the county where the crime was committed…his petition for pardon….’ The failure to comply cannot be excused because the governor took it upon himself and an agency he controls to do the required publications, then botched the job. And his attempt to shift the blame for his failure to a career staff attorney for MDOC, who advised him well in advance of the law’s requirements, is shameful .
“I am disappointed to see the former governor out in the national media making untrue statements. This is a sideshow by Tom Fortner and the former governor to divert attention from the fact that the former governor has loosed his favored murderers upon the public without any legal authority to do so. These untruths and mischaracterizations are indeed the sign of a desperate man. “