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Slaying victim's sister to Barbour: 'I want answers'

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

Tiffany Ellis Brewer says she refuses to live in fear since learning of the release of a man who gunned down her sister in 1993, fatally shooting his 20-year-old estranged wife in the head while her baby slept nearby.

“I want answers,” Brewer, from Pearl, Miss., told msnbc.com on Thursday. “I will not stop until I get them because something is seriously wrong with our system. No one saw this coming and the governor needs to answer for this.” 

In his last act in office, former Gov. Haley Barbour granted more than 200 pardons, clemency or early release for people convicted of crimes including murder, rape and armed robbery. Most of those people were already out of prison.

Among the convicted killers to be freed: David Glenn Gatlin -- the man who admitted to fatally shooting Brewer's sister, Tammy, and wounding her friend, Randy Walker, in July 1993.

"We were never notified that any of this was happening," Brewer said. "The last thing we heard was that Randy received a call saying that [Gatlin] had been denied parole. Next thing we know, he's released on Sunday. Now, we have no idea where he is." 

Gatlin and three other inmates had worked at the governor's mansion doing odd jobs under a program that rewarded good behavior.

In an interview with The Associated Press in 2008, Barbour said releasing trusties who served at the governor's mansion was a tradition in Mississippi.

The last-minute act, however, has incensed some people in Mississippi. 

“The events since the news broke is having a tearing-down effect on victim's families," said David Ruth, the lead investigator in the Brewer case. "They have to retell their story every time, and I know news is news, but we also have to protect them. My hope is that [Gatlin] does not create any more problems for the family, because he has put them through enough."

'Demand answers'
State Attorney General Jim Hood on Wednesday claimed the pardons had violated the state Constitution. Hood told The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson that 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.

Meanwhile, a Mississippi judge has temporarily blocked the release of the 21 inmates, scheduling a hearing on Jan. 23 in Hinds County Circuit Court.

Brewer plans to closely follow its developments.

"I implore all the victim's families to stand up and demand answers," Brewer said, "Mississippi has always had a stigma ... and our former governor has made that much worse."

Barbour released a statement Wednesday evening, saying "my decision about clemency was based upon the recommendation of the Parole Board in more than 90 percent of the cases."

Barbour said in the statement 189 of the people he pardoned or gave clemency to had already been freed.

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