Even those close to Barbour struggled to reconcile the pardon spree. "It's the magnitude of the number and the notoriety of some of the cases. There are some very angry people here" in Mississippi, says Curtis Wilkie, an Ole Miss journalism professor and childhood friend of Barbour.
Among those pardoned were Karen Irby, a Jackson socialite convicted of killing two doctors in a DUI-related crash, Ernest Favre, the brother of ex-NFL great Brett Favre, who killed his best friend in a 1997 drunk driving accident, and David Gatlin, a convicted wife-murderer who had earned good-behavior points by working as a trustee at the governor's mansion. Four of those released this weekend had worked at the mansion.
Barbour's record as governor gave at least some glimpse into his record-setting pardons. While the state executed nine people in the eight years he served as a law-and-order governor, he was also cited as a “shining example” by the NAACP last summer when he released two African-American women serving life in prison for an armed robbery that yielded $11.
As the pardons became the buzz of Mississippi, Barbour waited two days to make a statement. Released Wednesday night, the statement said 189 of the inmates had already been released by the state. "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."
According to the Mississippi Department of Corrections, the five inmates released over the weekend were the only current prisoners released. Twenty-one others are still in prison, awaiting the processing of pardon paperwork, including the requirement that victims must be notified 48 hours prior to their release.