Begging Haley’s Pardon

Friday, May 5th, 2006

Ralph Luker details a case that doesn’t bode well for Cory Maye’s chances of getting a pardon from Haley Barbour.

In this case, Governor Barbour has agreed that a black man was framed by officials in Missisippi in the 1950s for the crime of attempting to matriculate at the then-all white Southern Mississippi University. Since then, records have revealed that not only was the man framed, but the some state officials had actually considered killing him for the crime of attempting to integrate the school.

Today, Southern Miss names a building after the man, Clyde Kennard, and observes a “Clyde Kannard Day.”

So how ’bout a posthumous pardon for his wrongful conviction? Luker writes:

Governor Haley Barbour issued the proclamation for it [“Clyde Kennard Day”] and now believes that Kennard was grievously “wronged.” So, why does this case have implications for any hope to save Cory Maye’s life? Governor Barbour’s spokesman, Pete Smith, says that it makes no difference whether the state’s parole board recommends a posthumous pardon for Clyde Kennard. “The governor hasn’t pardoned anyone, be it alive or deceased,” said Mr. Barbour’s spokesman. “The governor isn’t going to issue a pardon here.”

This, I’m afraid, is also the impression I got while I was in Mississippi. I talked to a couple of people close to Barbour, and both said that the facts of the Maye case don’t really matter. Haley Barbour simply doesn’t believe in pardons or clemency. One man who has Barbour’s ear told me the governnor won’t even read a pardon petition.

When this story first picked up steam in the blogosphere, I thought that if enough high-profile people on the right spoke out in Maye’s defense, Barbour would perhaps have the political cover he’d need to grant a pardon. That’s still possible, but its seems far less likely to me than it did before I went to Mississippi.

Maye’s best hope right now is a new trial. But if things go poorly over the next couple of years, and Maye’s last hope rests with clemency, it would probably be best for him if someone other than Haley Barbour were in the governor’s mansion.

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