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learnedly read, too; in part, of intellectual rigor
Posted Friday, September 17, 2010
JACKSON, Miss. — Evelyn Rasco, who has been pushing for her daughters, Jamie and
Gladys Scott to be released from prison for 16 years, picked up two big
supporters Tuesday — the attorney who prosecuted the case and the president of
|Civil rights activists seek release of
sisters serving life in prison for an armed
robbery of $11 more than 16 years ago
|By Chris Joyner, USA TODAY
Jamie, 38, and Gladys, 36, are serving life sentences in Mississippi for their
role in a 1993 robbery that netted $11, despite having no prior criminal record.
The three men also arrested in connection with the robbery pleaded guilty and
have served their terms. Two of them testified against the sisters in return for
REGELIO V. SOLIS/AP
|Benjamin Jealous, president of the NAACP,
left, and former Jackson attorney Chokwe
Lumumba, second from right, present Capitol
Police Maj. Johnnie Stewart a box filled with
copies of petitions and letters of supporters
Jamie and Gladys Scott, sisters who have been
imprisoned by the state for armed robbery.
The prosecutor, Ken Turner, who since retired, said Tuesday that while he
believes they are guilty, some relief for the sisters' sentences is
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, in Jackson on Tuesday, officially asked
Republican Gov. Haley Barbour for a pardon.
"It is a travesty that in the state of Mississippi, the lives of two Black women
are valued at little more than 11 dollars," Jealous said in a statement. "From
the outset, the measures in which the Scott Sisters were convicted were
questionable and pattern themselves after dubious criminal justice trends in
Mississippi and nationwide. We intend to pursue justice to the fullest extent
for the Scott Sisters, and will continue our push for criminal justice reform
Jackson City Councilman Chokwe Lumumba, a former attorney for the sisters, said
he will meet with Lucien Smith, legal counsel for Gov. Haley Barbour, Wednesday
morning. "I think we'll have a chance to get first-hand from the attorney what
all the requirements are for filing a petition," he said. "He may be able to
give us a feel for what the governor thinks."
Advocates for the Scott sisters, who have been ratcheting up calls to pardon
them on blogs, podcasts, Facebook pages and YouTube videos, plan a rally
Wednesday in Jackson to call on Barbour to order their release.
"I have picked up so many supporters," Rasco said. "I think by people reading
this, it really touches their hearts."
The Scott sisters were accused of orchestrating the armed robbery of two men on
a rural road near Forest, Miss., on Christmas Eve 1993. According to court
documents, the sisters enticed the two men to take them on a ride to a nearby
nightclub. Witnesses testified that during the ride Jamie Scott complained of
nausea. When the car pulled over three men in a following car robbed them at
gunpoint. After the robbery, the victims testified the sisters left with the
three men. Both the victims and the accused are black.
Democrat Lumumba, one of the rally organizers, said the sentence they got was
"In most jurisdictions, in cases like this they would not even ask to give them
a life sentence," he said.
Pastor C.J. Rhodes of Mount Helm Baptist Church in Jackson said there are larger
concerns at work.
"Here you have the trinity of race, class and gender playing itself out in our
system," he said. Poor and black, Gladys and Jamie Scott did not have the
resources to adequately defend themselves in court or to pursue the case through
the appellate system, he said.
The sisters did not testify at their trial and no one testified on their behalf.
They were represented at trial by Firnist Alexander, a local attorney disbarred
two years later on charges unrelated to the Scott sisters. The Mississippi State
Supreme Court rebuked Alexander for "lack of diligence" and failure to
communicate with clients, according to court documents.
Many people drawn to their cause say that the verdict is beside the point.
"Even if the assumption is the jury made the right verdict, certainly (Barbour)
has to see with us that the sentence was more than it should have been," Lumumba
said. So far, advocates say they have heard no response from the governor.
So far, efforts to sway Barbour have had no success. Dan Turner, spokesman for
Barbour, said the governor has pardoned state criminals in the past, but that he
has been "very consistent in not substituting his judgment of guilt or innocence
over the court."
Joyner reports for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.
Copyright 2010 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
Published Thursday, September 16, 2010.
and punishment in America: Rough justice
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