As the announcement appears below indicates, this was a political compromise. According to the governor's announcement, "The Mississippi Parole Board reviewed the sisters' request for a pardon and recommended that I neither pardon them, nor commute their sentence." If no one in the wider world was paying attention, this would have been the end of the matter. But thanks to Nancy Lockhart, the civil rights community is well aware of this egregious case and, with Mr. Barbour already on the hot seat for his racial tin ear he had good reason to look for a third way.
Like the vast majority of defendants, the Scott sisters can't prove their innocence. The case against them was badly over-prosecuted, state witnesses have complained of harassment, and the trial was a travesty. But even if you think Gladys and Jamie done the deed, it is difficult to justify a five-year sentence in a case like this let alone double-life. What kind of jury would hand down sentences appropriate to an abduction-torture-rape-murder scenario for an alleged crime netting $11?
Well, if the comments section in Mississippi newspapers is anything to go by, there are a lot of folks in Mississippi who are quite prepared to take an eye-for-an-ear-lobe for any sort of crime if the defendants are presented as stereotypical thugs. The response of the Mississippi Parole Board is disappointing, to say the least. A recommendation of pardon or commutation would have amounted to an admission of judicial over-kill. A mere suspension creates the impression that the Scott Sisters deserved every year of their sentences but the good governor has a compassionate heart.
I doubt Gladys and Jamie are particularly concerned about the legal niceties--they just want to breathe in the free world again. And soon they will! That is good news indeed.Link to Friends of Justice News Feed -- http://feeds.feedburner.com/FriendsOfJustice
Dec. 29, 2010
GOV. BARBOUR’S STATEMENT REGARDING RELEASE OF SCOTT SISTERS
"Today, I have issued two orders indefinitely suspending the sentences of Jamie and Gladys Scott. In 1994, a Scott County jury convicted the sisters of armed robbery and imposed two life sentences for the crime. Their convictions and their sentences were affirmed by the Mississippi Court of Appeals in 1996.
"To date, the sisters have served 16 years of their sentences and are eligible for parole in 2014. Jamie Scott requires regular dialysis, and her sister has offered to donate one of her kidneys to her. The Mississippi Department of Corrections believes the sisters no longer pose a threat to society. Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott's medical condition creates a substantial cost to the State of Mississippi.
"The Mississippi Parole Board reviewed the sisters' request for a pardon and recommended that I neither pardon them, nor commute their sentence. At my request, the Parole Board subsequently reviewed whether the sisters should be granted an indefinite suspension of sentence, which is tantamount to parole, and have concurred with my decision to suspend their sentences indefinitely.
"Gladys Scott's release is conditioned on her donating one of her kidneys to her sister, a procedure which should be scheduled with urgency. The release date for Jamie and Gladys Scott is a matter for the Department of Corrections.
"I would like to thank Representative George Flaggs, Senator John Horne, Senator Willie Simmons, and Representative Credell Calhoun for their leadership on this issue. These legislators, along with former Mayor Charles Evers, have been in regular contact with me and my staff while the sisters' petition has been under review."