Mississippi Supreme Court to rule on pardons - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mississippi Supreme Court to rule on pardons

(WMC-TV) – The constitutionality of nearly 200 controversial pardons in Mississippi is at the mercy of the state supreme court and that has a lot of families on edge.

Attorney General Jim Hood's challenge of the pardons hinges on an obscure provision of the state constitution that requires the felon seeking a pardon to publish the request in a newspaper 30 days in advance.

The men published their notices, but just far enough in advance. The question is - will the justices consider it just a technicality?

"What a court does have jurisdiction to address is whether or not that pardon was valid," said Hood as he addressed the Mississippi Supreme Court in what he described as the longest hour and a half of his life as justices peppered him with questions.

Now, he waits.

"It could come as early as tomorrow afternoon," Hood said. "Friday afternoons are often good times for opinions to come down, but it could very well be sometime next week."

As Hood waits, so do family members of the pardoned murderers victims.

Among them was Mary MacAbee, whose brother was shot and killed by Joseph Ozment in Desoto County. She made the drive down to Jackson from North Mississippi for the proceedings.

"I'm not saying Haley Barbour committed a crime… but he did something wrong," she said. "He did not allow us the chance to speak."

MacAbee worries that even if Ozment's pardon is voided he won't return from Wyoming, where he is living with his fiance.

Betty Ellis trembled as she discussed the ordeal she's been through since Barbour pardoned David Gatlin. He and Ellis had a daughter together, Tammy Ellis Gatlin. David Gatlin killed her in 1993.

"It's like reliving the day you got the phone call saying your daughter has been killed," she said. "You go through all that again, you can't get away from it."

The justices are expected to decide whether the pardons can be challenged.

If the court rules against pardons, a lower court would be asked to hold hearings on each individual case which means this controversy could go on for much longer.

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