Mississippi's attorney general could be calling for a nationwide manhunt to find four of the convicted murderers pardoned by outgoing Governor Haley Barbour, according to CNN.
Attorney General Jim Hood wants to serve the convicts with a court order requiring them to check in with prison officials. This comes after a Mississippi judge issued a temporary injunction Wednesday forbidding the release of additional pardoned prisoners. But now officials are having a hard time locating some of the released prisoners, including four convicted murderers who were freed Sunday afternoon.
"These convicts got out and hit the road," says Hood. “This is probably gonna end up in some attempt by us to have fugitive warrants issued for these people. There’s gonna be a national search for some of them.”
The pardons granted to David Gatlin, Joseph Ozment, Anthony McCray and Charles Hooker release them from any responsibility to check in with prison officials or parole officers. Their basic civil rights have been restored and the pardons wipe their criminal records clean.
“These are the people the victims’ family members are terrified of,” says CNN correspondent Martin Savidge. “If they were paroled, [the families] knew the state would be keeping tabs on them. Because they were pardoned, it’s [the families’] worst nightmare. They don’t know where they are.”
Gatlin was convicted of shooting his estranged wife, Tammy Ellis Gatlin, in 1993 while she held the couple’s infant son in her dying arms. Ozment shot and killed 33 year-old Ricky Montgomery during a store robbery in 1992. McCray shot and killed his wife, Jennifer, in 2001 and Hooker, a teacher, shot his school principal to death in 1991.
But it wasn’t only murderers who were pardoned by Barbour. Rapists and sexual assault offenders were also among those issued pardons, and the usual standard for their release doesn’t apply.
“You’re usually required to join a sexual predator list, in other words, it’s made public where you are, where you live,” Savidge tells HLN’s Special Report. “This has all been avoided around them because they’ve been pardoned. They could be your next door neighbor and you wouldn’t know it.”
Barbour issued more than 200 pardons during his final hours in office. He has defended his actions, saying some people have misunderstood the clemency process.
“Approximately 90 percent of these individuals were no longer in custody, and a majority of them had been out for years,” Barbour said in a statement. “The pardons were intended to allow them to find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses as well as hunt and vote. My decision about clemency was based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90 percent of the cases.”
A hearing will be held January 23 to determine whether the his pardons will hold.