Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Scott Sisters: A Time for Celebration or Reflection?

With Mississippi governor Haley Barbour suspending the double life sentence the two Scott sisters were serving this past week, many people out there believe it is time to break out the champagne and celebrate. Yet I beg to differ. I think the work is not done. I believe we need to continue to put moral pressure on leaders like Governor Barbour so this sort of travesty of justice doesn’t happen again. For those people that don’t already know, the Scott sisters (Gladys and Jamie) were convicted in an armed robbery case that allegedly involved $11. No one was physically harmed. In this sort of case, you’d think that the sisters would’ve avoided hard time. Instead, the Scott sisters, who had no priors, were ordered to serve two consecutive life sentences. That’s right, you read right, back-to-back life sentences for petty theft. Can you believe that? Pardon the rhetoric, but these sisters did not deserve such a harsh sentence when their accomplices (i.e. two teenage young men) only received eight years for brandishing the weapon (gun) during the robbery.

It has been reported that the young men brandished the gun while the Scott sisters orchestrated the plan. These young men received an eight year sentence but were released early serving just two years. However, the Scott sisters ended up serving a 16 year sentence before being released upon the governor’s request. From day one the Scott sisters have insisted their innocence in this manner. Recently, their prison terms were suspended on the condition that Gladys donates a kidney to Jamie, who is seriously ill with diabetes and high blood pressure and receives dialysis at least three times a week. Gladys had long expressed a desire to donate a kidney to her sister, but to make that a condition of her release was completely unnecessary. Columnist Bob Herbert said it was mean-spirited, inhumane and potentially coercive. It was a low thing to do. The question becomes where is the justice?

The issue of race has truly raised its ugly head once again in this case as the Scott sisters are both African American. Bob Herbert of the New York Times and other local writers in Mississippi have offered hard-hitting analysis and reporting on this matter. They have pointed out some interesting facts suggesting that Mississippi’s governor may be picking and choosing where to exercise his executive power to intervene on affairs of this sort. For instance, in the Jackson Press, it is reported that Governor Barbour has a terrible record of pardoning and releasing very violent (white) men from prison—who brutally killed wives or girlfriends. In Bob Herbert’s article, he goes on to cite four different cases that truly underscore the injustice that the Jackson Press is referencing:

  • Bobby Hays Clark was pardoned by the governor. He was serving a long sentence for manslaughter and aggravated assault, having shot and killed a former girlfriend and badly beaten her boyfriend.

  •  Michael David Graham had his life sentence for murder suspended by Governor Barbour. Graham had stalked his ex-wife, Adrienne Klasky, for years before shooting her to death as she waited for a traffic light in downtown Pascagoula.

  • Clarence Jones was pardoned by the governor. He had murdered his former girlfriend in 1992, stabbing her 22 times. He had already had his life sentence suspended by a previous governor, Ronnie Musgrove.

  • Paul Joseph Warnock was pardoned by Governor Barbour. He was serving life for the murder of his girlfriend in 1989. According to Slate, Warnock shot his girlfriend in the back of the head while she was sleeping.

  • William James Kimble was pardoned by Governor Barbour. He was serving life for the murder and robbery of an elderly man in 1991.

It truly boggles the mind why Governor Barbour would wait so long to suspend their sentences (the Scott sisters have been in prison for 16 years) when their crime was nowhere what these men did. So the bottom line here is that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere as the great Martin Luther King, Jr. used to say. For future reference, we as the people must not sit idly by while something grossly wrong is transpiring. We must not close our eyes and doors insisting that it is not our problem. Believe or not people, if we fail to speak up and alert our elected officials, these sorts of injustices may end up at our own front door and it will become our problem. We must demand justice for each and every individual. Now is not the time for celebration as many have suggested, now is the time for reflection, vigilance and greater accountability. What do you say???

 For access to Bob Herbert’s article and cutting edge coverage from the Jackson Press, please click the links below:

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