ND Expert: Murder pardons by Gov. Barbour “indefensible”

Jimmy Gurule

A Mississippi judge has temporarily blocked 21 of more than 200 executive pardons given this week by outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour (R-Miss.) during his final days in office, and University of Notre Dame Professor of Law Jimmy Gurulé counts himself among many who are outraged that Barbour allowed murderers to be released.

“The fact that Gov. Barbour would pardon one convicted murderer absent extenuating circumstances is deeply disturbing,” says Gurulé, who, in his 23 years at Notre Dame, has taken two major leaves to serve as assistant U.S. Attorney General and Undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury Department for Enforcement. “Pardoning four convicted murderers is shocking, insulting to the surviving family members of the murder victims, and demonstrates a callous disregard for our criminal justice system and the rule of law. In my opinion, Gov. Barbour’s actions are indefensible.”

An expert in complex criminal litigation, Gurulé says a governor’s discretion and authority to pardon a convicted criminal should be used rarely and only in extraordinary circumstances.

“Typically, the pardon authority is exercised in cases where there are serious issues regarding whether the defendant received a fair trial or where the defendant received an unusually harsh sentence given the nature of the criminal offense,” Gurulé says. “Further, rarely are pardons granted for defendants convicted of serious violent crimes. Among other reasons, convicted murderers are incarcerated because they pose a danger to society.”

Media Advisory: Gurulé’s comments may be used in whole or in part. He is available for interviews and can be reached at 574-631-5917 or gurule.1@nd.edu.

Originally published by Shannon Chapla at newsinfo.nd.edu on January 12, 2012.