In response, the Mississippi House Democratic Caucus held a press conference at the Capitol, and were joined by members of the families of the victims of the men Barbour pardoned. The press conference was understandably quite emotional. Mark McAbee, the nephew of murder victim Ricky Montgomery, described the crime committed by a man Barbour pardoned Sunday:
“One of the other ones shot my uncle three times. He was crawling toward Joseph Ozment for help. He didn’t know Joseph Ozment was involved. He was crawling to him for help. Joseph Ozment put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger twice,” McAbee said.As noted here yesterday, House Democrats are seeking to pass legislation to prevent future governors from wielding unmitigated pardon power. According to the Clarion-Ledger:
He called the pardon “a slap in the face.”
A bill sponsored by Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, would require a public hearing before a governor could pardon a prisoner convicted of a felony. The same bill was killed in a Senate committee last year, and in 2010, a similar amendment was removed from a parole board bill in a House committee.This is an issue that has legs, and will quite possibly result in changes to the pardon process. For his part, incoming Gov. Phil Bryant (R) stated that he would not pardon murderers, due to the fact that he lost his aunt to murder.
Baria also said he intends to propose legislation this year that would preclude those convicted of capital murder from serving as trusties in the mansion.
It remains to be seen whether Baria's legislation can make it through the Republican-controlled House and Senate. If it does, it will be interesting to see whether Bryant will sign legislation limiting his own power.