WESSON — When Thomas Ailes heard from a friend that he'd been pardoned for a marijuana conviction from the 1970s, he didn't wait for the Mississippi Parole Board to mail him the paperwork. He jumped in his blue Dodge truck and drove an hour to the capital to pick it up himself.
On an unseasonably warm morning last week, the Vietnam veteran kicked back on his front porch in the tiny town of Wesson and proudly displayed Executive Order No. 1083, one of nearly 200 pardons former Gov. Haley Barbour signed in his final days in office.
"I'm going to have about 10 copies of this bad boy made. And this one here is getting framed," Ailes said.
The pardon isn't life-changing for Ailes, 61. He's been out of prison since 1977. He's disabled, so it won't help him land a job. He never lost his right to vote.
"I just wanted the same clean record I had when I joined the Marines," he said. "I wanted it so I can clear my conscience."
Ailes' hopes may be dashed. The Mississippi attorney general's office is trying to have dozens of pardons thrown out, including his.
In the shadows of the national headlines and angry reaction from victims of heinous crimes, there are many like Ailes, searching for redemption, not freedom.