Attorneys react to pardon injunction hearing

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - The national spotlight continues to shine on Mississippi and the Hinds County Courthouse where pardoned convicts were ordered to appear and prove that they met constitutional requirements.

Attorney Tom Fortner had no comment as he headed to court with clients pardoned by former Governor Haley Barbour.

Fortner represents four of the five pardoned trusties who worked at the Governor's Mansion.

They are Nathan Kern, David Gatlin, Charles Hooker and Anthony McCray.

A who's who of defense attorneys filled Circuit Court Judge Tomie Green's courtroom representing any number of the 200 pardons.

Attorney Ed Blackmon is representing convicted criminals Aaron Brown and Azikiwe Kambule who was a teenager when sentenced.

"He has a legitimate pardon from the state. Pardons have been given over the last century in Mississippi, and his pardon we believe is solid," Blackmon said.

High profile lawyers represent other convicts pardoned of crimes like rape, armed robbery and drug possession.

"My client's name is Buster Caldwell," said Jackson attorney John Reeves. "He was convicted in Yalobusha County in 1976, and he's been out for about 20 years. The law for a hundred years or more has said that the governor can do it, and it's up to him to decide if the requirements have been met, nobody else."

Caldwell was convicted of rape and robbery.

Reeves noted the Parole Board approved of his pardon which was published.

"My client's name is Kelly Bellapani," said attorney Oliver Diaz.

Bellapani was convicted in Harrison county of Possession of a Controlled Substance.

"He was actually honorably discharged from the military," Diaz said. "He pleaded guilty to a crime about 15/20 years ago. He's been a model citizen since, and I think he's entitled to that full and complete pardon."

While CNN and other media outlets cover the case, state lawmakers are monitoring the proceedings while continuing with pardon legislation.

"There's a possibility that former Governor Barbour may intervene in the case as it was related in court for constitutional interpretation I believe. So we'll see how that goes," said Rep. Bobby Moak (D) Bogue Chitto.

Meanwhile pardoned convict Joseph Ozment did not appear in court.

"We didn't get him served yet, but anybody out there in the media who has any idea of the whereabouts of Mr. Ozment we are looking for him and we'd appreciate you calling the Attorney General's Office and letting us know his whereabouts and we will get him at some point," said Attorney General Jim Hood.

The injunction hearing was continued until February third.

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