“I miss my child, and I want her to come home, but that will never happen. I’ll never have her again. I have bad days. I don’t have good days… I miss my child, I love my child, and I want her back.” – Linda Smith
On the night of Friday, October 7, 2011, eighteen-year-old Charity Smith was killed in an automobile accident in Pontotoc, Mississippi. A recent high school graduate who was working at a local Cracker Barrel to save money for her college education, Charity was a talented young woman who had dreams of receiving a business degree. Tragically, she would never see that dream become reality, as her life was cut short when a man by the name of Harry Bostick, driving under the influence, slammed into her vehicle, killing her on impact.
This was not the first time that Harry Bostick had been driving drunk; in fact, Bostick was charged with his third DUI – all three of which occurred within the span of one year. In May 2010, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year of house arrest and four years in an alcohol treatment program. Hoping to have his slate wiped clean, family and friends of Bostick initiated an effort to have him pardoned by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.
A former IRS investigator, Bostick had a wide range of support behind him, including a former U.S. attorney who stated in a letter to the Parole Board, “Harry no longer drinks alcohol,” and that Bostick could, “now be a positive factor in many lives.” His supporters blamed his reckless actions on the sudden death of his son but claimed that, despite having been charged with three DUIs within a year, Bostick had learned his lesson.
In a vote of three to two, the Mississippi Parole Board agreed and recommended that Bostick be granted a pardon, sending their recommendation to Governor Barbour on September 30 of last year. Seven days later, Charity Smith was taken from her loved ones in that fatal collision, and Harry Bostick was sent to jail for violating the terms of his third DUI sentence.
Last month, during his final days in office, Governor Barbour pardoned over 200 criminals, more than forty of whom were murderers, rapists, and other violent offenders. Five of the men pardoned by Barbour were still serving their respective sentences for the cold-blooded murders they had committed, or as Barbour called them, “crimes of passion.” One such recipient of the governor’s pardons was none other than Harry Bostick, who had to be set free by authorities – irrespective of the fact that he still has to face charges stemming from the DUI that killed Charity Smith – since Barbour had exonerated him of the very DUI conviction they were using to hold him on.
After the national media caught wind of Barbour’s actions, he became the center of a firestorm, prompting Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to challenge several of the pardons in court. Arguments are scheduled to be heard by the Mississippi Supreme Court beginning February 9, and the current governor has said that he plans on examining the possibility of limiting the number of pardons a governor is able to grant.
Even though he now has all of the facts in front of him, Barbour has yet to issue an apology to any of the victims’ families for his blatant disregard of their suffering and loss. Not only is Haley Barbour a disgrace to the Republican Party and the American people, he is a disgrace to every victim of crime in our society.
In an interview on CNN with John King, Barbour even attempted to defend his decision by claiming, “the power of pardon in the state is to give people a second chance who have repented, been rehabilitated and redeemed themselves.”
Compassion is a commendable trait to possess. Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts one could ever obtain. However, as an alternative to showing empathy to the likes of Harry Bostick, show empathy for the victims. Enough with parole and pardons. Enough with excuses and political correctness. The criminal justice system is meant to punish, not to coddle.
I find it appalling that Barbour classifies himself as a conservative, since his decision to pardon such offenders as Bostick completely ignores fundamental bedrocks of conservative thought, such as personal responsibility, limited government, and the rule of law. Barbour is a prime example of how executive power, at both the state and federal levels, has become corrupted and overreaching. The idea that one individual has the capability to blur the lines of the separation of powers and act unilaterally directly contradicts everything the Founding Fathers fought for and believed in.
Charity Smith’s mother, Linda Smith, told Anderson Cooper on his CNN program that, “I know we all make mistakes. There’s nobody perfect, but when Haley Barbour said everybody deserves a second chance, my baby didn’t get no second chance. She’s not here.”
Too often in the United States, the law is poisoned by politics. The Founders realized that in order for freedom to prosper, government not only had to be limited but the country had to be ruled by laws and not men, for man is fallible. Americans tend to forget that government is an institution controlled by man, meaning that government is not the omnipotent leviathan like it thinks. As Jack McCoy once argued during the closing arguments on an episode of Law and Order, “Without the law there can be no freedom, and without justice, there can be no law.”