DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - The pardons will stand. After a month of debate, it's not the answer most wanted to hear.
The Mississippi Supreme Court is upholding more than 200 pardons former Governor Haley Barbour made right before he left office in January. Those include four convicted murderers. One of them is Joseph Ozment, who killed a DeSoto County store clerk in the 1990's.
Six justices voted to uphold the pardons, three against them.
There's been outrage across the country over their freeing. The court's decision is not likely to lessen that anger.
North Mississippi's District Attorney calls the ruling disappointing, but not unexpected.
"I'm very shocked. This, to me, feels as if our government has failed us," says Gerald McAbee, whose brother-in-law was murdered by Ozment.
"I certainly understand that feeling," says District Attorney John Champion. "There's going to be a lot of people in the state that absolutely feel that way."
"It's hard to believe they're doing this," McAbee says.
The legal reasoning for the decision dates back a long way. While it may be by the book, it doesn't mean it makes sense to everyone.
"This is unfortunately an incredibly technical interpretation of law handed down," says Champion. "While I'm disappointed by it, I can't say they're wrong."
Champion explains the justices ruled the court can't legally change something signed into law by the governor. It's a complex separation of powers argument that dates back to the 1800's.
"There were two cases continually cited saying one branch of the government doesn't have power to go behind another."
The state had argued Barbour's pardons weren't legal to begin with because proper newspaper notices weren't published.
The justices decided that didn't matter.
"The way I interpret the ruling is that the publishing law is something the governor should have followed."
The justices ruled after the governor signed the pardon, it was good no matter what had happened beforehand.
All the legal explanations in the world can't make up for what McAbee's family is feeling.
"Those murderers should have to pay for what they've done," he says.
McAbee says justice may not be served in Mississippi, but he believes Ozment will be held accountable one day.
"He will be. My God will hold him responsible," he tells abc24.com.
Champion says if the state wants to prevent something like this from happening again, legislators need to look at a constitutional amendment redefining the governor's powers since the law is very broadly worded.