Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pardon me, Haley Barbour

par·don   [pahr-dn] noun
1. kind indulgence, as in forgiveness of an offense or discourtesy or in tolerance of a distraction or inconvenience: I beg your pardon, but which way is Spruce Street?
2. Law . a. a release from the penalty of an offense; a remission of penalty, as by a governor. b. the document by which such remission is declared.
3. forgiveness of a serious offense or offender.

Haley Barbour is on his way out as governor of Mississippi, and in true Haley style, he is going out with a bang. The pardons started flying, and by this morning, my Facebook feed was rife with stories of wife murderers getting set free this past Sunday.

Pardon me, Haley, but did you know one of those men shot his wife in cold blood while she held their baby? Was that a "release from the penalty" pardon, or an actual "forgiveness of a serious offense"? Because I'm curious to know if you really are alright with what that man did.

Then just hours ago, it was announced that Haley was granting clemency to Karen Irby.

1. the quality of being clement; disposition to show forbearance, compassion, or forgiveness in judging or punishing; leniency; mercy.
2. an act or deed showing mercy or leniency.
3. (of the weather) mildness or temperateness.

In brief, Karen Irby killed two residents at University of Mississippi Medical Center in 2009. The victims, Drs. Lisa Dedousis and Daniel Pogue, were engaged to be married. They were driving their pickup truck when Karen crossed the center line in her Mercedes and hit them going 100 miles per hour, killing both. She was drunk. She was tried and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

More things I have heard are that her husband Stuart was beating her in the car while she was driving, causing her to crash. I have also heard that the victims families did not want Karen to serve jail time. 

Karen Irby is the wife, now ex-wife, of Stuart Irby, son of Stuart and Bitsy Irby. Stuart (Sr.) and Bitsy Irby were two of the nicest people I knew in Jackson. I attended church with them from the day I was born. They are both gone. Have been for awhile. This is not the Irby family I knew when I lived there.

The thing about the Irbys, is that they have a lot of money. Since it is terribly rude to discuss money, I'll leave it at that.

All of this has me thinking about Karen's children.

I keep hearing from the Mississippi crowd that her babies need her. She has a daughter, nine years old, and a son, five years old. They have been split up and sent to live with their different biological fathers.

I agree. They do need her. 

I'm undecided on what they need from her though.

Does her release teach them that they everyone makes mistakes? Does it teach them about grace and mercy, which I believe are two of the most important things in life?

Or does it teach them that there is no real accountability with their family name and status? Does it set them up to recklessly travel through their lives, making decisions based on the knowledge that someone will always cover for them?

Karen Irby could have been me or any huge number of people I knew in my earlier years. However. It wouldn't be me now, as I just passed two years without a drink. Being on the other side of the glass, I don't agree with calling drunk driving a mistake. Every drink you pour is a choice. Every sip requires a decision to lift that glass to your lips. Trust me. I know this.

I suspect that Karen Irby's sentence was meant to be a message to people who drink and drive. I suspect that the tragic nature of the victims, cut down in their prime, just starting promising medical careers and engaged to be married, I suspect that Karen might have gotten the same sentence if her last name had been Smith or Jones.

I also suspect though, that she wouldn't be getting that clemency. 

Notice that the definition of pardon in terms of a criminal is simply release from a punishment. Clemency is leniency of punishment with forgiveness. She has been forgiven of her crime. At least by Haley Barbour.

At what price though? Where is the line between accountability and responsibility or grace and mercy? And is there a line at all?

Accountability can come with forgiveness. Consequences can exist while being shown mercy. I'm not sure that is what happened here. 

Nothing good could ever have come from the situation. That is probably the only truth that is certain. Every family involved has suffered and will suffer. I don't know that any amount of jail time, no matter how much or how little, will ever help the suffering.