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Trusties in Mississippi governor's mansion? Not anymore

January 20, 2012 | 11:03 am

Haley Barbour_Mississippi has decided that letting prisoner trusties work in the governor’s mansion might not be such a good idea after all. The decades-old tradition drew national attention recently after it became known that, over his two terms in office, former Gov. Haley Barbour had pardoned eight convicted killers who'd worked as trusties there; the pardons themselves drew national outrage.

A spokesman for new Gov. Phil Bryant said Thursday marked the last day that inmates would work as trusties at the mansion -- a plum assignment for prisoners as it involved spending the night on the grounds of the stately, white-columned antebellum landmark in Jackson. The news was reported by the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Bryant did not elaborate further, but he has said in the past that he is sensitive to victims' rights because his aunt was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 1981. Her assailant is currently in prison.

Barbour, a prominent figure on the national Republican stage, is returning to work as a lobbyist. Over the course of his eight years in the governor's office, he pardoned eight convicted killers who'd worked as trusties in the mansion. Four of those pardons occurred earlier this year, and included one man who had been denied parole a few days earlier.

Barbour defended the decisions as a decades-old state tradition, and a symbol of mercy.

The public, and especially the families of the victims who were killed by those pardoned men, saw things differently. Five of the eight killers' victims were either their wives, former wives or girlfriends. The sheer number of pardons and early releases granted in Barbour's final days in office was criticized as well.

While the trusties-in-the-mansion practice is coming to an end, several state lawmakers want to go further. There is growing support for several pending bills that would regulate pardons in the state.


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Photo: Haley Barbour. Credit: Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press