Mississippi Judge Tomie Green is stepping in to block some of the controversial pardons recently made by former Gov. Haley Barbour.
As governor, Barbour was a star in the Republican Party. But even his biggest supporters are now questioning the 215 pardons he handed down to criminals during his finals days in office.
Some were convicted murderers and now the victims' families are angry and speaking out.
"This has been a lot of pain and heartache for us, for all the families that go through this," said Betty Ellis, the mother of murder victim Tammy Ellis Gatlin.
Judge Green is temporarily blocking 21 of the pardons Barbour issued, saying the inmates failed to file timely public appeals.
Mississippi will investigate the others.
"It appears from my preliminary review that the vast majority of them would probably be illegal pardons," Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said.
In a statement, Barbour pointed out that nearly 90 percent of the individuals were no longer in custody, and the pardons will clear their records allowing them to "find gainful employment or acquire professional licenses, as well as hunt and vote."
So far, four convicted murders have been released.
Among them is David Gatlin, who was convicted in 1993 of murdering Tammy Ellis Gatlin, his estranged wife.
"I was sorry that I couldn't help her," Betty Ellis said of her daughter. "And that's the way I felt: helpless."
"And I have a lot of feelings," she continued. "I mean, I've been mad. I can't understand how a man that has children of his own could do this."
Gatlin also shot Randy Walker in the head. He survived.
"I think the governor himself should have to look me and the family in the eye and say, 'Hey, I'm going to let this guy go,'" Walker said. "But there wasn't any of that. That's the coward's way out if you ask me."
All four of the pardoned murderers worked for Barbour in the governor's mansion cleaning and cooking.
"This, again, has given Mississippi a black eye," Walker added.
Last year, Barbour made headlines after freeing Gladys and Jamie Scott, who were serving life sentences for armed robbery.
He made the decision because Gladys agreed to donate a kidney to her sister.