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Bryant supports reducing governor's clemency powers

Gov. Phil Bryant says he supports a constitutional amendment to reduce gubernatorial clemency powers “to very narrow guidelines” on which the public would vote.

Bryant’s comments come amid a firestorm out-going Gov. Haley Barbour created when he granted clemency to more than 200 convicted criminals in his final days in office.

“I have met with Sen. (Michael) Watson, with the speaker of the House and (Speaker Pro tem) Greg Snowden and briefed the lieutenant governor,” Bryant said this morning. “My request is that we restrict to very narrow guidelines the ability to provide pardons or clemency. My standard will be that it’s only for cases where there is clear and convincing evidence that someone has been wrongly convicted There may be some instances – we have DNA testing and other new technology.

“I say have a constitutional amendment – let the people vote on it. I’m a big proponent of letting the people decide things.”

Bryant on Thursday had met with Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, chair of the Constitution Committee to start drafting language. Watson and other South Mississippi lawmakers have for years pushed for reducing gubernatorial clemency powers, after former Gov. Haley Barbour freed a man in 2008 who had shot his ex-wife to death as she sat at a red light in Pascagoula. The man had served as a trusty at the Governor’s Mansion.

A constitutional amendment requires a 3/5 majority vote from the Legislature, then ratification by Mississippi voters.

For more on this story see Friday's editions of the Sun Herald.