Dueling attorneys asked the Mississippi Supreme Court during a three-hour hearing Thursday to determine the validity of pardons that Haley Barbour gave to convicted killers and other convicts during his final days as governor. At the heart of the dispute is Section 124 of the Mississippi Constitution, which says “no pardon shall be granted” by the governor until the convicted felon applying for the pardon publishes notice of that application for 30 days in a newspaper in or near the county where the crime was committed.
The nine justices could uphold the pardons, as requested by a private attorney for Republican Barbour. Or they could declare the pardons invalid, as requested by Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood. If they agree with Hood that the 30-day publication is a must, they could send the pardons back to a lower court, where a circuit judge could hold a trial to determine whether the pardons met those requirements. “It’s a constitutional right of the people to have that notice,” Hood told the justices. Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. didn’t say when a decision would come.