January 30th, 2012
02:03 PM ET

Attorney general: Pardoned murderer found in Wyoming

[Updated at 2:17 p.m. ET] Joseph Ozment, a convicted murderer who was pardoned this month in a controversial move by outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, has been found in Wyoming, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced Monday.

Ozment was served at a hotel in Laramie, Wyoming, where he had been staying under another name, his office said.

"As our officers attempted service, Mr. Ozment fled in his girlfriend's vehicle but not before the vehicle made contact with one of our investigators," Hood said in a press release.  "That is when our officers asked for the assistance of the Laramie Police Department.  Mr. Ozment returned to the hotel on foot and ended up signing receipt of service in the presence of our two officers and two with the Laramie Police Department."

Ozment is one of four convicted murderers Barbour pardoned early this month. He did not appear at a court hearing in a case challenging the pardons. Hood said previously officials wanted to serve Ozment with a document telling him to appear in court.

Pardoned Mississippi murderer drops out of sight

According to a transcript of Ozment's confession to police, Ozment admitted being part of a robbery so he could have "Christmas money." He entered the convenience store with a friend who shot the clerk three times. The clerk, Rick Montgomery, crawled from around the counter and Ozment looked at him and shot him twice.

As he closed out his second term as governor, Barbour granted "full pardons" - meaning the convict's record is effectively wiped clean - to more than 200 people found guilty of a variety of crimes. All four of the convicted murderers he pardoned were serving life sentences and worked as trusties at the governor's mansion.

The move stirred outrage among relatives of the pardoned murderers' victims, among others. Hood has been particularly outspoken, earlier this month calling the pardons "a slap in the face to everyone in law enforcement and (saying) Gov. Barbour should be ashamed."

He also said Ozment and three other murderers did not meet the constitutional requirements to be granted a pardon, and he wants to see the men put back in jail to finish their life sentences.

Barbour has defended his pardons. He told CNN's John King that Ozment and the others have been rehabilitated.

"He has no obligation to do anything," Barbour said. "He's been pardoned. He's a free man."

So what will happen next?

"We said we would find him and we did," Hood said. "Now we will let the court decide what happens from here."

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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Justice • Mississippi
soundoff (297 Responses)
  1. John Schwendler

    Such a dangerous precedent and a slippery, slippery slope. Is this state's judicial/corrections/political departments now going to have the precedent-setting freedom to recall any released prisoner for any reason, without any legal justification other than these pending test cases? Mississippians need to wake up and the rest of the country had better pay attention to the results. They could be next. This is so wrong on so many fronts. Using the current system in place, the governor legally issued a legal pardon. These ex-cons are free men, or are supposed to be. This is just bad.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      I'll say it one more time, since some people seem to be a bit slow on the uptake – the AG is quite RIGHTLY CHALLENGING the pardons based on the fact that the former governor VIOLATED THE STATE CONST1TUTION by not issuing proper notice that the pardons were forthcoming. Essentially, to allow these pardons to go through unchallenged would set a dangerous precident by allowing governors to disregard their own const1tutions.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • LINDY

      I think that's the point to ajudicate whether it was legal for this insane politician to pardon men who have not served the sentence they were assigned. For the system to work criminals need to pay for what they did other wise why assign punishment lets just say "your release depends on whether you can fool an idiot Govenor into thinking you're a changed man". If they'd put him to death like they should have wouldn't have this issue.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      I think its unclear if the pardons were done properly.

      And, I have to wonder what in the heck was the Gov thinking when he decided to try to pardon this person?

      January 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • DE

      Most of the criminals released by Berbour ahd ties to repugs and the wealthy. Welcome to republican Amerika.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. John Lane

    The purpose of jail is (a) rehabilitation and (b) public safety during the process of rehabilitation. The purpose is not punishment. Once someone is rehabilitated and can be a useful member of society, there is no point in continuing to imprison the person. To do so harms society that might benefit from the person's service to the community. Why is the US the only country that does not recognize these truths?

    January 30, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • morph147

      because theres somethings that once you do you shouldnt be set free

      January 30, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Risky

      Everyone in USA knows that a murderer either gets life in prison or death.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Poolchick

      They now have rehabilitaion programs but , prison is for punishment for a crime committed and to keep honest citizens safe from the monsters. He looked at the clerk then shot him twice. He should be put back in jail to serve his sentence. They all had afair trial paid for by the tax payers and that moron let them out. Hope that governor is their next victim of crime.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      @poolchick. To quote the US Supreme Court: One does not go to prison for punishment.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dondi

      John - in America, we spend more on prisons than we do education for our children, wonder why the jails are so full? We don't rehabilitate criminals, we just lock them up and forget about them, and most give a "they deserve it" sigh of relief. Although we are in the 21 century, ignorant mob rule still plays a very big part of American society.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • LINDY

      You don't get to take someone's life then claim you're rehabilitated so you get another chance. The person they killed didn't get a chance did they? There is no rehabilitation for these men their crimes were too heinous to even deserve to live I don't believe you can come back from a place that depraved it takes an animal to do what they did and if you can do something like that once you are capable of doing it again.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • AJ

      What morph said. Once you murder someone in cold blood, you lost your 1 chance to be a part of society. You snuffed out the life of another person before their time. Liberals would love a society that screws the victims and gives the murderer a "pat on the back" because he had a "hard life." Meanwhile the victim is dead and their family is ruined.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daryl

      I have to disagree with you on this on. The crime this criminal did and got life is punishment. What he did was so horrendous that the "punishment " is a life sentence. For what he did to that store clerk he should die in prison. Other lesser crimes have lesser punishments and the criminal is supposed to be rehabilitated whils serving his sentence. Ozment shot that clerk while he crawled on the floor after his accomplice shot the man three times. I'm sorry but that kind of cold blooded murder deserves a life sentence which is what he got and which he should be serving now.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • zman537

      So if this man was a convicted pedophile, would you trust him to be around your kids after he has been "rehabilitated". I think not. I remember seeing a news clip about a guy in china who kidnapped a boy and was holding a knife to him. Instead of the chinese police waiting for hours for the standoff to end and then sending him to jail for the tax payers to pay for his "rehab" the Chinese Police rehabilitated him to the dirt with a bullet to the head. Stand off over, kid went un-injured, the police dept prolly had to pay 1 dollar for another bullet and thats that. If we actually enforced the laws in this country about raping and murding people, there would be less crime. But criminals know that they can pretty much go free with just about any crime they commit.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      @ Risky – About 25 years is the average for a "standard homicide". usually paroled within 15-20
      Death row or natural life is actually very rare in murder cases, only the most heinous or multiple murderers get that.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CJ Topspin

    He was released on a pardon. So...what was he served with? Once he is free...why does it matter where he goes? Or are there rules like parole? Anybody know?

    January 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joy

      The pardons are being contested by the state's attorney general, on the grounds that the governor did not follow the exact written procedure for issuing a pardon. In other words, the governor screwed up the paper work, so that might give the AG grounds to overturn them.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kerry

      He didn't show up at the hearing to decide if it was legal for the Governor to do so. Since then they found it was legal so not sure why they kept pursuing him, except to site him for contempt of court for not showing up maybe?

      January 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      Yes, he was pardoned. However, there are no prison records associated with his incarceration. It appears that the inmates working at the Governor's Mansion are provided a different lifestyle and opportunities for release. I am concerned that he was using an alias for the purposes of hotel registration, and further, that he fled the scene when approached. If he is innocent, and he was pardoned, why run?

      January 30, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      I think the Gov failed to give proper 'prior notice' of the impending pardons. I think thats a bit more serious than the term 'screwing up the paperwork' tends to suggest. I assume this individual was being served with a summons to appear in court for a legal challenge to the pardon. It sounds like someone that should spend the rest of their life in jail anyway, so I hope the pardons are overturned.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      @Joy even if that may be the case, on redact the pardons would still issue per intent. The governor wished pardon, it was within his power to do so. Paperwork or not, these men are going to be free.
      All of this is just sensationalist screaming for attention about how "immoral" this fair use of authority was.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. morph147

    before i state what im about to state i seriously agree with everyone that i really dont like the idea of 4 convicted murders running around free. however here is the issue im having with the whole argument that the pardons were done incorrectly from what i have read about this story so if im incorrect on my thinking please INTELLIGENTLY correct me with facts.

    the problem is even if they say the pardons were done wrong the only issue i see from it is they didnt publish it 30 days before they released them. therefore even if they send them back to jail because the governor gave them a pardon cant they just publish it once they get back in jail that they are getting free and then 30 days later the state has to release them and if not then the state is breaking the law?

    January 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joy

      I doubt it. If the paperwork got screwed up, and the governor has now left office, I imagine they'll say the pardons are null and void. Nobody can go back and correct the problem and then say "Ok, NOW they're legal". That would be sort of like letting a thief put the money back after he had been convicted, and then saying "OK, I should be released now because I put it back."

      January 30, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      The Gov that issued the pardons is now gone, so he can not reissue them. Hopefully the new Gov is not as screwed up, so the pardons – once overturned – will never be reissued.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Joy

    The governor did not follow the exact letter of the law regarding procedures for pardoning, so there may well be grounds for overturning those pardons. Hopefully this case will also draw some discussion about what to do when a governor - ANY governor abuses their power to pardon.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRouble

      Or Presidents for that matter!

      January 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JT

    "Barbour has defended his pardons. He told CNN's John King that Ozment and the others have been rehabilitated."

    Ie...they found Jesus and, like me, are now a True Christian®.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joy

      Oh, well then! I guess that means ALL prisoners who have found Jesus should be turned loose. I don't think that most Christians would agree with that.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Newt ist nicht gut!

      Joy, do you know the meaning of the word sarcasm? JT, please educate her!!!

      January 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joy

    p.s. we're not really happy here in California about some of the pardons that Arnold issued as he was walking out the door. The whole issue of governor's issuing pardons to whoever they want, no matter what the prisoner has done, needs to be reviewed and revamped, so that this kind of abuse can't continue to happen.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. matt

    Also, you realize that now, if these murderers are put back in jail to serve out their original term, they will probably be able to sue the state for cruel and unusual treatment. And I bet a bus load of ambulance chaser attorneys will be camped out in front of the jail, just begging to represent one of them.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • morph147

      sue for what money that they will never get to use because they are in prison. the only thing they can do is sue for release really.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • @morph

      Well, you've never to been to jail or prison, that's easy to see. they still use money while behind bars.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Risky

    I can imagine psychopaths thinking it's okay to murder and "legally" get away with it.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bobbo

    If the GOP presidential candidate does not repudiate Barbour he is toast in the election! This is so contrary to everything the GOP claims it supports! The GOP has enough image problems; this act of idiocy does the party no favors...at all! Had this act been that of a DEM the screaming for the right would have defended us! The GOP of today has very little resemblance to the GOP of US history. Abe must be proud! So, while candidates for the nomination bark at each other the GOP, as a party, slowly slides down the sewer!
    It's this sort of political immaturity that greases the road to the White House for President Obama. The Dems can save their incredible war chest; the GOP is holding open the White House door for Obama for four more years. Haley...take a long vacation and do some reading; you need to get educated!

    January 30, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. pmn

    Sounds like a cold blooded murderer to me. Put his behind back in jail. Can he leave the state?

    January 30, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Pinebelt Bob

    I have voted Republican most of my adult life. Haley Barbour is not likely to run for another public office so I won't have the opportunity to vote against him. However, if he ever endorses a candidate, that candidate will not get my vote. Now that I think about it, I doubt ANY candidate would WANT his endorsement now. And I can't believe that big Jackson law firm actually let him join it! What were the partners thinking?

    January 30, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      But Barbour knows that the memory of the GOP voters is very short and they will vote for him for certain reasons, ignoring his past. Just look and Gingrich's past and how well he's doing.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Txassholdem

    Did I miss something???
    He signed for reciept!!!!!!!!!
    Is he being held or they gonna go looking for him again??

    January 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ART

    Really can any Rethuglican be taken seriously, I think it was an insult to call Barbour Boss hog , he is not as smart as Boss hog

    January 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Big Duke

    Terry G you are way off the track. the story is about a freeded killer. Not the Odummer....Obama...what ever! Stay on the subject.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
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