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Nightly News   |  January 11, 2012

Miss. Gov. Barbour goes on pardoning spree

On his last days in office, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour confused many of his constituents when, without explanation, he granted pardons or early releases to more than 200 convicts. NBC’s Mark Potter reports.

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>>> good evening. haley barbour is often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate. he's a prominent politician, one of the best known governors in the u.s. he's the former chairman of the republican party . what he did as he left office as governor of mississippi has left a lot of people stunned and outraged, and some of them now actually fearing for their lives. he pardoned over 200 criminals, including some hardened criminals, murders guilty of gristly killings. there's been no explanation. the now-former governor isn't commenting, after using the sweeping power of the pardon for his personal reasons, and now the people of the state of mississippi deal with the consequences. it's where we begin here tonight with nbc's mark potter in jackson, mississippi .

>> reporter: on his last days in office, haley barbour , the powerful and highly-regarded mississippi governor ended up angering and confusing so many constituents. without explanation, he granted pardons or early releases to a long list of more than 200 convicts, including 21 murderers and many others spending time for violence crimes.

>> pardon means this individual can grab a school bus , go to law school , move in next to you.

>> reporter: among those were five prison trustees, who because of good behavior worked at the governor's mansion in jackson. four were convicted murderers. among them david gatlin sentenced to life for 30 years for shooting to death his estranged wife tamly who held her 6-week-old son and her friend. tiffany is tammy's sister and says her family is furious with barbour for releasing gatlin, causing them to live in fear.

>> he is a cold, calculated murderer. why wouldn't he finish what he started, you know? being a trustee at the governor's mansion does not change a murderer.

>> reporter: in the past, other mississippi governors have pardoned convicts, but a relative few. the question of why barbour would release so many is unanswered. late this afternoon, the mississippi attorney general said he was seeking an injunction to prevent any more prisoners from being released.

>> it's a slap in the face to me as a prosecutor, after serving 20 years, we have to try to round up all these convicts that have been turned loose. and try to fix the messes's created.

>> reporter: tonight here at the state capitol , some of the law makers have been talking about proposed legislation, to limit the governor's ability to pardon violent criminals.

>> mark potter on this amazing story out of mississippi . mark,