The Scott sisters are free!

The Scott sisters have now been released from prison.  After a brief story from AOL (immediately below) I have pasted an excerpt from the Clarion-Ledger dealing with the controversy over Governor Haley Barbour’s stipulation that Gladys Scott’s release is contingent upon her willingness to donate a kidney to Jamie Scott.

Scott Sisters Released From Mississippi Prison; Transplant Next?

Jamie and Gladys Scott, the Mississippi sisters who became a cause celebre among civil rights activists, were released from prison today after serving 16 years for an armed robbery that netted $11.

Their life sentences were suspended by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour last month, with the unusual condition that one sister donate her kidney to the other, who is sick and needs a transplant.

Their attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, said the sisters were exuberant as they were released to their mother and children from a prison in Pearl, Miss., at 8 a.m.

“They’re feeling great. This is beautiful,” Lumumba told AOL News today by phone. “I feel like a young fella myself.”

In 1994, the Mississippi women were convicted of armed robbery for hitting two men on the head with the butt of a shotgun in Forest, Miss., and stealing $11. For years, activists have said the sisters received such harsh sentences because they are black.

Jamie Scott, 38, is on dialysis and needs a kidney transplant. Gladys, 36, had already agreed to donate one of her kidneys to Jamie when Barbour included the stipulation as part of their release, but his decision still raised some eyebrows. In December, Lumumba told AOL News that while the arrangement “does sound a little barbaric,” Gladys would have donated the kidney anyway.

Lumumba said the sisters must undergo more medical tests before the transplant can take place. He said it’s not clear how the operation will be paid for, either. “We still need Medicaid to handle the bill,” he said. “Or we’ll be looking for donors to help us.”

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Governor Haley Barbour’s stipulation that Gladys donate a kidney to her ailing sister, Jamie has created considerable controversy.  Consider this excerpt from today’s story in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:

Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said he has never heard of an organ donation becoming a condition of release.

“This raises several ethical issues,” said Caplan, who has more than 25 years of experience in the field.

Caplan said the agreement gives the impression Gladys Scott is trading a kidney for her release.

“The governor basically – either out of ignorance or indifference – stepped on an ethical framework that was established 50 years ago,” he said. “When he says, ‘you have to do it,’ it puts her in a situation where she cannot back out.”

Whether Gladys Scott, 36, will be an organ match for her sister or whether she has any health complications that could prevent the procedure has to be determined.

“Prisoners are usually too sick or have too many infectious diseases to be good organ donors,” Caplan said.

The governor’s office has not said what will happen if Gladys Scott is unable to go through with the donation.

“All of the ‘What if’ questions at this point are purely hypothetical,” Barbour said. “We’ll deal with those situations if they happen.”

Rasco said the family does not know how it will pay for Jamie Scott’s dialysis treatments or the eventual transplant.

“We’re trying to set up all of the medical stuff,” she said. “I just don’t know.”

She said supporters are considering establishing a fund to help cover medical expenses.

“Medicaid should cover Jamie’s dialysis,” their attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, said.

Supporters said they have not yet determined how much of the transplant would be covered, though.

“I would think it will cost a lot so we may be having some kind of a fundraiser.”

Rasco said Florida officials told her that her daughters will be required to pay the state $52 a month, unless that amount is waived because of Jamie’s medical condition.

The sisters, who will remain on probation for the rest of their lives, are required to report to the Florida Department of Corrections probation office before Jan. 18, agency spokeswoman Jo Ellyn Rackleff said.

“They will simply show up and tell us they are in Pensacola,” she said. “The official documents from Mississippi will be examined, and the offenders will be told what will be expected of them in Florida. They will be assigned a probation officer.”

The sisters originally had petitioned for a pardon, which they still can seek at a later date.

Barbour’s decision to suspend the sentences indefinitely drew praise from the NAACP – a group that condemned him a week before for remarks that he made about a segregationist group.

Barbour, who is harboring presidential aspirations, faced intense criticism several weeks ago for his description of the segregationist Citizens Council as “town leaders” who kept the KKK at bay in civil rights-era Yazoo City, his hometown.

3 thoughts on “The Scott sisters are free!

  1. Victim: Sisters in on holdup

    One of men robbed says, “I know they were
    involved.”
    Jimmie E. Gates • jgates@clarionledger.com
    January 9, 2011

    On a brisk December night in 1993, Mitchell
    Duckworth, then 23, and older cousin Johnny Ray
    Hayes met two young women at a Mini Mart on
    Mississippi 35 in Forest.

    “It turned out to be the worst night of my life,”
    Duckworth said last week via telephone from his M
    ount Olive home. “I never dreamed it would
    happen.”

    The two women Duckworth and Hayes met were
    sisters Gladys and Jamie Scott.

    Before the night was over, Duckworth and Hayes
    say, they were robbed at gunpoint and the
    perpetrators were the Scott sisters and three young
    males.

    “I know they were involved,” Duckworth said of the
    Scott sisters.

    Late last month, Gov. Haley Barbour suspended the
    sisters’ sentences indefinitely, thus ending years of
    pleas from around the world for their release.

    On Friday, the sisters left the Central Mississippi
    Correctional Facility in Pearl after serving 16 years
    in prison. They’ve left to live with their mother,
    children and grandkids in Pensacola, Fla.

    Barbour cited the cost of 38-year-old Jamie Scott’s
    dialysis treatment, and he conditioned Gladys
    Scott’s release on her donating a kidney to her
    sister.

    Gladys Scott, 36, said she wants to donate a kidney
    to her sister and prays she is a match.

    Asked about the sisters’ release, Duckworth said he
    has put the case behind him and doesn’t think about i
    t much. “I have no problem with them being
    released,” he said.

    At a Friday news conference, the sisters stated
    emphatically they were innocent.

    Evan Thompson, attorney for Howard Patrick, one of
    the three males who pleaded guilty in exchange for
    a lesser sentence, said he can’t say the Scott sisters
    instigated the robbery, but he said all five
    defendants were equally guilty because they took
    part in it.

    Thompson, whose law practice is in Forest, said it is
    his recollection the Scott sisters left with Patrick and
    the others after the robbery.

    “It should be remembered that it was a jury that gave
    the Scott sisters life in prison,” Thompson said.

    A panel of seven white and five black jurors
    convicted the sisters of two counts of armed
    robbery and decided their sentences. Under
    Mississippi law, a jury can sentence a person to life
    in prison for armed robbery.

    Attempts to reach jurors from the case were
    unsuccessful last week.

    Then-Scott County District Attorney Ken Turner said
    in a previous interview his recollection was the Scott
    sisters planned the robbery and persuaded Howard
    Patrick, his brother Christopher Patrick and cousin
    Gregory Patrick to rob the men. But Turner said the
    jury’s life sentence was not customary since it was
    normally handed down in a grisly case, and the
    Scott sisters’ case wasn’t particularly grisly. He has
    said he believed reducing the sisters’ sentences
    would be “appropriate.”

    There have been conflicting statements about what
    happened the night of the robbery nearly 20 years
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    ago.

    The sisters said their car wouldn’t start at a Forest
    convenience store on Dec. 24, 1993, so they caught
    a ride with two men but were sexually harassed and
    got out of the car, according to a Mississippi Justice
    Project report.

    But records in the Scott County circuit clerk’s office
    in Forest paint a different picture.

    Hayes and Duckworth said they had left work at
    McCarty Farms about 10:30 p.m. and drove to a Mini
    Mart on Mississippi 35. They said while there they
    saw Gladys and Jamie Scott pull into the parking lot
    in a blue Oldsmobile.

    Hayes and Duckworth said Gladys Scott approached
    their vehicle and said she and Jamie Scott wanted to
    go for a ride.

    The four left the Mini Mart in Hayes’ car, heading
    north toward the Hillsboro area. They stopped at an
    apartment complex and then again headed toward
    Hillsboro. Duckworth told Hayes the same blue
    Oldsmobile they saw at the Mini Mart was following
    them. Hayes and Duckworth said they stopped at the
    Cow Pasture, a Hillsboro nightclub, to allow the
    Scott sisters to go to the restroom. When they
    returned to the car, Gladys Scott asked if she could
    drive, and Hayes allowed her. Gladys Scott stopped
    at a house across the street from the Cow Pasture.
    She and Jamie Scott got out and spoke to the
    individuals in the blue Oldsmobile, which was
    parked on the side of the street.

    When the women returned, Gladys Scott continued
    to drive. Soon thereafter, Jamie Scott began to
    complain about a stomach illness. Hayes asked
    Gladys Scott to stop the car so Jamie Scott would not
    vomit in his car. Gladys Scott pulled to the roadside,
    and the blue car pulled up behind Hayes’ car. When
    the women got out, a man shoved a shotgun
    through the passenger’s window and ordered Hayes
    and Duckworth to get out and lie on the ground.
    The assailants hit both men in the head with a
    shotgun and took their wallets, according to the
    court record.

    Jamie Scott held the shotgun at one point during the
    robbery, the court record said. The sisters and the
    three men went back to Jamie Scott’s apartment,
    where they split the money, according to the record.
    The court record didn’t specify the amount of money
    allegedly taken, only saying it was more than $10.

    None of three men charged with the Scott sisters
    could be located for comment.

    Two of the three teenagers charged in the armed
    robbery case, Howard Patrick and Gregory Patrick
    reached a plea bargain and testified against the
    sisters. Both served a little more than three years in
    prison.

    Howard Patrick completed parole in November
    1997. Gregory Patrick completed his sentence in
    February 1998. He was never on parole.

    Christopher Patrick was released on parole Jan. 13,
    2006. He is serving his parole in Indiana. His
    remaining time expires in May this year, Mississippi
    Department of Corrections spokeswoman Tara Booth
    said.

    Scott County Circuit Court records don’t show the
    three Patricks as having any other criminal charges
    or convictions after their release.

    A Scott County deputy clerk said Friday there are no
    records showing any of them as still living in the
    area.

    Howard and Christopher Patrick lived in California
    prior to their arrests, according to court records.

    To comment on this story, call Jimmie E. Gates at
    (601) 961-7212.

  2. Scott sisters case in context

    By Ronnie Agnew • Executive Editor • January 9, 2011
    Jamie and Gladys Scott should never had spent 16 years behind bars for their part in a robbery that netted a small amount of money. They should have been out years ago, but fell victim to Mississippi sentencing laws that allowed for such a harsh sentence.

    But there is one key factor being lost in all the national hoopla about the sisters’ release. While some in national media circles are patting themselves on the back, crediting themselves for aiding their release, they have forgotten the harshness of the crime. They have forgotten that the Scott sisters lured two unsuspecting men to a rural area of Scott County where the men were threatened and hit with a shotgun. The Scott sisters’ accomplices were teenagers who were spared long jail terms for testifying against them.

    At gunpoint

    In reading all of the national accounts about the Scott sisters’ story, one has to wonder whether the serious crime that took place in 1993 has been confused with an Innocence Project case, where criminals are typically found not guilty after spending years in prison, largely as a result of DNA testing.

    The Scott sisters are being treated as heroes when the crime they committed indicates they are far from it. There is a fixation on the amount of money stolen. Some say it was $11; others say it was a couple of hundred. The men were robbed at gunpoint, undoubtedly fearing for their lives.

    What the Scott sisters did that day was wrong and there is no reason to celebrate criminal behavior. Conversely, the sentence they received was too harsh and they are deserving of their freedom.

    Gov. Haley Barbour suspended their sentences because Jamie Scott is on dialysis and her care costs the state $190,000 annually. Her sister Gladys has agreed to donate a kidney if she is found to be a match.

    Served debt

    That’s the other ridiculous part of the Scott sisters’ story. Newspapers and TV stations have gone in search of medical ethicists because Barbour indicated that their release is predicated on Gladys giving Jamie a kidney. It’s indisputable that the wording in the release gave that impression. But it is ridiculous for anyone to think that Barbour would throw Gladys Scott back in jail if she chose not to donate the kidney. The political backlash he would take would be unbearable and any aspirations he might hold for the presidency would come to swift conclusion. Besides, Barbour is savvier than that.

    The sisters are home and they should be. Making anything more of it is a slap in the face of the criminal justice system and victims’ rights. They have served their debt to society, but one thing is clear: Heroes they are not.

    Contact Executive Editor Ronnie Agnew at (601) 961-7175 or e-mail ragnew@clarionledger.com.

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