Supporters of Jamie and Gladys Scott are beginning to believe that this legal travesty will soon be rectified.
An October 12th column by Bob Herbert of the New York Times appears to have ruffled feathers in the Magnolia State. Herbert suggested that double life sentences for a robbery netting $11 might sound ludicrous but “This is Mississippi we’re talking about, a place that in many ways has not advanced much beyond the Middle Ages.”
Will Herbert’s comments make the Mississippi Parole Board more or less likely to do the right thing? According to an even-handed article in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the attorneys and activists calling for justice in the Scott sisters case take a more hopeful view.
Is Mississippi captive to a medieval mentality?
I have frequently posed this question. State Senator Lydia Chassaniol, a native of Winona, Mississippi, is proud of her membership in the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group dedicated to the same principles that brought us the white Citizens’ Councils and the fascist Mississippi Sovereignty Commission.
It should be noted, however, that during her tenure on the Mississippi Parole Board, Ms. Chassaniol took her responsibilities seriously and frequently responded with commendable compassion. Miss Lydia is racially insensitive, to be sure; but that doesn’t mean she embraces the Mississippi Burning sensibilities of Bob Herbert’s imagination. Mississippi has undergone sweeping, almost breathtaking, change in the past half century. The bizarre verdict in the Scott sisters case is a throwback to the way things were. We should pray that the compassion recommendation of the Parole Board will reveal a different side of Mississippi. Vestiges of Jim Crow bias remain; but the skies have been gradually clearing for decades.
I should note, parenthetically, that a dozen hard-hitting columns from Bob Herbert helped bring justice to a drug war travesty in Tulia, Texas–the egregious injustice that brought Friends of Justice to life. Herbert had some pretty nasty things to say about our little town, most of it justified, some of it over-the-top and rooted in cultural ignorance.
Mr. Herbert’s harsh evaluation of Mississippi is understandable, even appropriate; but far more needs to be said. One way or another, the Parole Board’s upcoming decision will speak volumes.