Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sign the Petition: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour should free the Scott Sisters

Known as the “Scott Sisters”, Jamie and Gladys Scott were convicted in a 1994 armed robbery which yielded $11, a crime in which they have consistently denied any involvement. Both sisters were sentenced to double-life sentences and have remained imprisoned since their convictions, despite the fact that they were convicted primarily on testimony from three teenagers reportedly coerced by the County Sherriff’s office. One of the witnesses has since recanted his statement and acknowledged that the Scott Sisters are innocent.

The Scott sisters did not have the resources to adequately defend themselves in court or to pursue the case through the appellate system [1]. 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 who was disbarred two years later for demonstrating a "lack of diligence" and a failure to communicate with clients.

In a letter to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, NAACP National President and CEO Benjamin Jealous has requested a pardon for the Scott Sisters based on several grounds. In addition to the legitimate questions regarding the accuracy of the testimony against the Scott Sisters and the questionable manner in which it was obtained, Jealous citeed the fact that their sentences were excessively severe given the nature of the alleged crime.

“It is a travesty that in the state of Mississippi, the lives of two Black women are valued at little more than 11 dollars,” said Jealous. “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 throughout America.”

The NAACP also expressed concern over a history of questionable judgments by Marcus Gordon, the judge who presided over the Scott Sisters’ case. In 1964, Judge Gordon granted bail to the KKK murderer of three civil rights workers.

In addition to the pardon, Jealous’ letter asked that Governor Barbour grant a “compassionate medical release” to Jamie Scott in light of her current medical condition. Scott lost renal function in both of her kidneys and cannot survive without a transplant; her sister and several others have agreed to be a donor but the the Department of Corrections has refused to allow any tests to determine donor compatibility.

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