Nightly News   |  January 12, 2012

Judge stops more prisoners from being released

Former Mississippi governor Gov. Haley Barbour’s pardons may have violated the state constitution. NBC’s Mark Potter reports.

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>>> there is more to report on the big story out of mississippi where a nationally prominent governor sometimes mentioned as a potential presidential candidate issued dozens of pardons to convicted criminals, including murderers on his last days in office. late last night, haley barbour , the former governor offered an explanation of sorts, but with outrage going over this unprecedented action a judge has said not so fast. our report from nbc's mark potter .

>> reporter: the anger in mississippi over governor barbour 's decision to grant those pardons and early releases will not go away.

>> i just can't understand what was going through haley barbour 's mind.

>> reporter: mary's brother was killed 20 years ago by joseph osmond sentenced to life in prison . after working as a truth's at the governor's mansion, he's just been pardoned and free.

>> as if nothing happened. as if my brother does not matter. as if these victims do not matter.

>> reporter: of the more than 200 convicts granted pardons, there were 21 murderers, eight sex offenders and more than 50 others convicted of armed robbery , assault, kidnapping and other vinyl crimes. in a written statement issued last night, barbour 's office pointed out approximately 90% of those who received clemency were no longer in custody and a majority had been out for years. the statement said pardons would allow the offenders to find gainful employment or acquire professional licensees, as well as hunt and vote. district attorney michael guest says a big problem with pardons is they free convicts, allow them to buy guns and clear their records.

>> i believe that the public has a right to know whom they're hiring, whom they are associating with, whom they are entrusting their children. with

>> reporter: at the state capitol , democrats are drafting legislation that would require the governor to consult with police and families before pardoning violent criminals.

>> these victims need to be heard. their families need to be heard.

>> reporter: a judge halted the release of any more prisoners until barbour 's pardons can be reviewed. mark potter , jackson, mississippi .