Thursday, March 8, 2012

Buddhism and the Barbour Pardons

Haley Barbour Pardons: Mississippi Supreme Court Rules Pardons Are Valid

Haley Barbour Pardons

 — The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the pardons issued by former Gov. Haley Barbour during his final days in office, including those of four convicted killers and a robber who had worked at the Governor's Mansion.
Barbour, a Republican who once considered running for president, pardoned 198 people before finishing his second term Jan. 10. Most of the people pardoned had served their sentences years ago, but crime victims were outraged and created a furor that lasted for weeks.
Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood challenged the pardons based on the argument that many of them didn't follow a requirement in the state Constitution to publish notices in newspapers for 30 days.
In their 6-3 opinion, the Mississippi Supreme Court wrote "we are compelled to hold that – in each of the cases before us – it fell to the governor alone to decide whether the Constitution's publication requirement was met." The court also said it couldn't overturn the pardons because of the Constitution's separation of powers of the different branches of government.

The outrage seems nearly universal. Though most of the pardoned criminals apparently finished their sentences long ago, some of their crimes were horrible beyond imagining and devastating to survivors, who suffer still.

Survivors who have spoken on television make it clear that they feel victimized by the pardons, which re-open deep wounds.

It is so easy to understand why the survivors want to keep the criminals in prison forever, or perhaps have them executed, even now.  Revoking the pardons would make them feel better.

But would the survivors be healed?  They have not found healing in the years that passed since the crimes.

The deep hurt seems to be in what the pardons mean to the survivors. The pardons seem to say that the crimes were not so bad, or that they can be forgotten or forgiven.

The survivors are victims three times over. First, they lost loved ones through violent and evil and intentional acts. Second, they have never found peace or healing and remained victims all this time. Third, their grief is deepened when they feel the crimes are trivialized by these executive pardons.

Buddhism seeks above all to end suffering. What will ease the suffering here?