Discuss as:

Pardon of violent criminals sets up Miss. legal battle

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.

Updated 8:40 p.m. ET: In response to criticism about the pardons, former Gov. Haley Barbour released a statement from his office Wednesday evening that said 189 of the more than 200 people pardoned were already out of prison.

"My decision about clemency was based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90 percent of the cases," the statement said.

The statement, reported by WTVA of Tupelo, went on to say 13 of the 26 inmates released from custody cost the state a lot of money due to their medical expenses and can be returned to custody if they commit another crime.

Updated 8 p.m. ET:  Mississippi Circuit Judge Tomie Green has temporarily blocked the release of 21 inmates who'd been given pardons or medical release by Republican Haley Barbour in one of his final acts as governor.

Original story

JACKSON, Miss. -- The state attorney general on Wednesday moved to block the release of some inmates pardoned by Gov. Haley Barbour in his last days in office, claiming the move may have violated the state Constitution.

Attorney General Jim Hood said the law requires a legal notice of plans to pardon to be published 30 days prior to the action. He said his office couldn't find such a record.

“Unfortunately our research has revealed that Gov. Barbour violated the Constitution,” Hood told The Clarion-Ledger. “We’re seeking to stop the release of any prisoners.”

Hood told WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss. that he planned to file an injunction at Hinds County Circuit.

Read original story from WLBT.com

On his last day as Mississippi governor, Barbour, a Republican, surprised friends and foes by granting more than 200 pardons, clemency or early release for people convicted of crimes including murder, rape and armed robbery. His actions included 21 people convicted of murder, according to NBC News. 

Also included were four inmates who had worked at the governor's mansion doing odd jobs under a program that rewarded good behavior.

Among the pardoned was the brother of retired National Football League star quarterback Brett Favre. Earnest Scott Favre was convicted in 1996 of driving while intoxicated resulting in the death of his best friend. He was sentenced to a year of house arrest and two years probation.

'Seems very excessive'
While pardons by outgoing governors and presidents are not unusual, the number and the types of crimes stand out, said Marty Wiseman, a Mississippi State University political scientist and director of the school's John C. Stennis Institute of Government.

"That seems very excessive to me," Wiseman told The Associated Press. "I don't recall this many crimes that serious being pardoned by anybody."

Barbour has provided no public statement on the decisions. Former Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, also a Republican, has officially taken office as governor.

Until this month, Barbour had issued only five pardons and three indefinite suspended sentences in eight years as governor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

More content from msnbc.com and NBC News: