(AP) JACKSON, Miss – Four convicted murderers pardoned by outgoing Mississippi governor Haley Barbour will remain free at least until a hearing on February 3, reports CNN.

 Eight of the convicted murderers pardoned by Barbour had killed their wives or girlfriends.

Mississippi judge Tomie Green announced Monday that he was delaying a decision on whether to invalidate some of Barbour's controversial pardons. The state attorney general's office says it needs more time to prepare.

Attorney General Jim Hood has challenged some of Barbour's pardons on the grounds that they failed to meet the state constitutional requirement of publishing a notice for 30 days in a local newspaper. Hood wants those pardons invalidated and the men returned to prison.

But the attorney for the four men – three of whom appeared in court Monday – says that the state attorney general's office “was smack dab in the middle of getting” the pardons approved but has hidden its involvement in the process, according to CBS affiliate WJTV.

Attorney Tom Fortner, a former public defender, filed two motions asking a judge to disqualify Hood from the lawsuit through which he hopes to overturn some of Barbour's 203 pardons.

Should Hood prevail, the Associated Press reports that the majority of the people who would lose their pardons had already served their sentences and had been out of prison for years, in some cases for decades, before Barbour's actions.