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. Dave

    Precedence showed that inmates that worked at the Governor's mansion were pardoned when the Governor left office. Those serving life sentences were not eligible to work there, but yet these four inmates were. How did four inmates convicted of murder, serving life sentences, get out of a maximum security and allowed to live and in the governor's mansion? This seems planned, but by whom? As far as former Governor Barbour, thank goodness he is gone with his only legacy being that he pardoned four cold blooded murderers.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • shura53

      well said!!!!!!!!

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

      I agree, well said.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Terri

    Why did he run and have to re-captured again? (Or maybe I am misunderstanding the article).

    January 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      He didn't run, he was free like anybody else to go where he pleased. A pardon means you are free. He was not recaptured, he was served with legal process to appear in court to answer the complaint that the pardons were illegal. He is not bound to appear in my view–the article does not report what kind of process, whether summons or subpoena or merely some notice of proceeding in which he may be interested, although it does say "telling him to appear" it does not say compulsory appearance and it would not be clear that the Mississippi court has the power to make him appear short of a warrant and extradition proceeding. He was not taken in to custody as far as the article reports. And, to Dave above the word is "precedent" not precedence and you are misusing the word.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg Smith

      He did evade authorities it seems but he was not being chased to be captured. He was being chased to serve him with a summons to appear in court as the judge tries to decide on the issue of whether his pardon was lawful. If you notice in the article they said he "ended up signing receipt of service in the presence of our two officers and two with the Laramie Police Department."

      January 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Curb79

    This is total bull-smack. You know damn well that if it were you or I who murdered someone for "Christmas money" we woulda' got the death penalty or life sentence and no pardon. Yet this old fogey let these criminals go. He should be very ashamed of himself and there is no way you can declare these men rehabilitated. This is an outrage and these criminals need to be put back behind bars. Why do you think this man ran from police in the first place? He's plotting another kill...just you wait.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      A your thinking is faulty. If you are set free after being told you are free, you'd run too if somebody decided to challenge it–when on the face of it the pardons are legal, at least legal enough for you to be out of prison with the understanding you are a free man. I By the way, it is not illegal to avoid service of process, its done all the time and that's all his running was in this instance. I don't think you're that good a mind reader Curb79 to figure out if this guy is plotting another murder–or you would be a rich man and able to replace a court, a lie detector and a jury all in one. As for Haley Barbour bein an old fogey, I quite agree, it is interesting that he is one of the few Republicans that is mentioned as Presidential material.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. don

    Sounds like a case of two wrongs make a right. Murder is wrong. A pardon was wrong. Equal free man, a right? Strange, doesn't sound like Bush or Obama had anything to do with it.

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

    The governor's quote indicates there is no obligation under the law with the type of pardon received (and he must know what he's talking about given all the legal counsel available to him...on of whom i know personally as a very good, honest, upright person). What doesn't really make sense is that there isn't some obligation to prove your worth on the outside world once released...at the very least in the case of a convicted murderer whose conviction was not overturned (in other words, you've been freed knowing that you have been a danger to society of the worst kjnd). Some sort of parole/probation period seems only reasonable, with a clear understanding that if you violate it or commit another crime then there are serious repercussions. Rehabilitation is an excellent objective and so is returning a person to a productive life, but there has to be a heirarchy or order and the public's welfare can't be compromised at the expense of giving a capital offender a second chance. Right?!?

    January 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mark

    Yeh, this guy is rehabilitated. That's why he isn't using his old name, and is hiding out on the other side of the country. And he has a girlfriend already? Wonder if she knows who it is she's been bedding with...

    January 30, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      As for your comment about rehabilitation, given the prison rarely does rehabilitate, it wouldn't surprise me if he weren't. As for the girlfriend, plenty of guys in prison have girlfriends waiting for them and your surprise ("Already?") is not a surprise and the girlfriend may not be a "new acquitision." As for he she's is/was bedding, that question can't be answered, but if you've got a girlfriend, you can't answer that question for yourself.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. RodRoderick

    This is America. There ARE no "free men".

    January 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy ©

    I wonder just how many were pardoned for non-violent crime like marijuana possession?
    Gonna have to look that one up.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. David B.

    Wow, and this guy was going to run for President? So I wonder why 4 murdered would get work at the governors mansion, and I wonder why Barbour would let them off free.

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

      Doesnt matter, it was within his rights whether you find it disgusting or not. If mad vote for the other guy. Simple.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Steamed

    How did convicted murderers becom trustees in the first place? They should have remained in maximum custody with no option EVER for outside work details or brown-nosing the Gov. Louisiana needs to review their entire corrections manual if this normal procedure.

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

      Sorry but the Republican Governor was from Mississippi.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Hey Steamed, 1) this was Mississippi, the governor of Louisiana is Bobby Jindal, not former governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour. 2) How did they become "trustees"? Good question, but my guess is in the southern tradition, this amounted to slave labor for the governor, he just decided to pay them back with a get out of jail free card.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Observer

    So much for "law and order" Republicans.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chris

    Obviously there is no law in this country,A Governor pardons someone and the police decide to do their own thing. There is no one law for all, the law is now whoever has the guns.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    The only reason CNN is stalking this man is because he is white, they would not be doing this to a pardoned black murderer.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • teedofftaxpayer

      And chances are he wouldn't have been pardoned if he was black. We're talking about a Republican governor from Mississippi- you know the K K K party.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    Too bad we execute innocent men (Cameron Todd Willingham) who Governors refuse to believe science on, yet let violent criminals walk free. A pardon is essentially a loophole that allows one person to play god. Judge, Jury and pardoner when it's already been done and is legitimate.

    January 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      A pardon is not a "loophole" a loophole is a gap or defect in a law or rule that somebody can exploit to their own advantage. A pardon is a recognized power of Governors to excercise their discretion to allow somebody to be excused from the balance of their prison term. Not a loophole at all, usually the pardon power is hemmed in by a series of rules to prevent its abuse. That is just what this situation involves, whether the former Governor of Mississippi abused his pardon power by not following the rules. The fundamental problem here is whether a pardon issued by somebody with the apparent power to do so, even if defectively issued, still holds up. After all, the pardoned person was given the pardon, told he was free and released. From his standpoint all he did was go about his business and after this bruhaha blew up, he ran for cover knowing he was going to be on every newpaper and webpage across the country in effect being tried all over again. There is no culpability in hiding from the press, just as there is no culpability in avoiding a process server. And if the you read the story carefuly, private process servers (not much better than bounty hunters) used the police power by claiming he came into contact with one of them–meaning they claimed that his car hit one of them or there was some other physical contact. Yet, no arrest was made. Frankly, the acceptance of the process itself was not voluntary and was coerced and probably can be voided. So the court, if it has any power outside its physical jurisdiction, probably has no power over him. Great fodder for a defense attorney.

      January 30, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ja

    and haley, what else did you do contrary to morals and the law, just imagine this man as us pres, God forbid, the politicians quickly forget that they serve a the pleasure of the people, but then americans buy lots of garbage as in haley

    January 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
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