Category: Scott Sisters

Haley Barbour’s selective compassion condemned in Mississippi

Haley Barbour has put his foot in it again; this time for pardoning more than 200 Mississippi inmates as one of his final acts as governor.  Please understand that most of these people had served their sentences; Barbour issued full pardons so they could vote, buy fishing licenses and live a normal life in the free world.  As Michelle Alexander argues with chilling clarity in her book The New Jim Crow, ex-cons don’t return to the free world when they leave prison, they are condemned to restricted and truncated lives in which the pursuit of an education or a decent job is largely a waste of time.  In short, they have been excommunicated from the American dream.  Governor Barbour felt that a few former inmates, selected with capricious randomness, deserve better.

It should also be noted that this is not the first time Haley Barbour has shown his compassionate side.  Until 2008, the Mississippi Governor refused to pardon anyone for any reason, then, as Radley Balko discovered when he checked the records two years ago, Barbour suddenly went soft.  The five men pardoned on Barbour’s way out the door are remarkably similar to the kind of people Barbour has pardoned in recent years.  Here’s Balko’s list from late 2009:

Bobby Hays Clark, who in 1996 shot his ex-girlfriend in the neck and beat her boyfriend with a broom handle. Clark, who had a previous aggravated assault conviction, was sentenced to 38 years. Barbour pardoned him last year without notifying the family of Clark’s victim.

Michael David Graham, who in 1989 shot his ex-wife point-blank with a shotgun while she waited at a traffic light. Barbour suspended Graham’s life sentence, and he was released.

Clarence Jones, who stabbed his ex-girlfriend 22 times in 1992. She had previously filed multiple assault and trespassing charges against him. He was sentenced to life in prison. Barbour pardoned him last year.

Paul Joseph Warnock, who in 1989 shot his girlfriend in the back of the head as she slept. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1993. Barbour pardoned him last year.

William James Kimble, convicted and sentenced to life for robbing and murdering an elderly man in 1991. (more…)

When the Devil plays God

Byron De La Beckwith the younger

By Alan Bean

“The devil will sometimes play the part of God and let things happen.”  Byron De La Beckwith Jr.

The Jackson Clarion Ledger has published two articles stemming from an interview with Byron De La Beckwith Jr.  Byron II claims his father didn’t kill civil rights leader Medgar Evers in June of 1963. 

He said those behind Evers’ assassination belonged to the Citizens’ Council, which produced television shows in which “experts” declared that African-Americans were genetically inferior. He would not share the names of the men involved. He said they later joined the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, believed to be responsible for at least 10 killings in the 1960s.

 Jerry Mitchell reports that the FBI will be looking into De La Beckwith’s assertions, but I doubt new facts will emerge.  De La Beckwith, like his daddy, enjoys the limelight and intends to make the most of it.

More interesting, from my perspective, is Byron the Second’s description of his personal contribution to 1960s anti-civil rights terrorism and his sad reflections on the current status of the Mississippi Ku Klux Klan.  (more…)

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. (more…)

Pardons in a punitive age

By Alan Bean

‘Tis the season for executive pardons–or at least it used to be. 

The editorial board of the Washington Post is criticizing President Obama for making nine trifling pardons, most of which involve small crimes that date back decades. 

In a slashing opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News, Scott Henson of Grits for Breakfast questions the prevailing practice of handing out a few scattered pardons like Christmas presents while ignoring entire categories of people who have fallen victim to ill-considered policies like putting non-violent citizens  in prison for simple pot possession.

Meanwhile, NYT columnist Bob Herbert takes a stripe out of Mississippi Governor Hailey Barbour and the political establishment of Mississippi for their shabby treatment of the Scott sisters. (more…)

Hailey Barbour suspends Scott sisters’ sentences

Governor Hailey Barbour has suspended the sentences of Gladys and Jamie Scott.  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. (more…)

You can help the Scott Sisters

Nancy Lockhart has been working behind the scenes to bring the plight of Jamie and Gladys Scott to national attention.  Interest in the story spiked recently but, with no recent developments, interest is beginning to flag.  Nancy would like you to get personally involved.  The message below tells you how.

Alan Bean

Message from Nancy Lockhart

Jamie and Gladys Scott both went before the Mississippi Board of Pardons and Parole today. Results from this hearing are unknown at this time. Please continue to call and e-mail governor Haley Barbour’s Office in support of their release. Each call and e-mail is very important! (more…)

Freedom Riders stand up for the Scott Sisters

By Alan Bean

Thirty-eight freedom riders who rode buses to Jackson, Mississippi in 1961 to set up a tug-of-war between Jim Crow and new federal law have signed a petition on behalf of Gladys and Jamie Scott.  The Scott sisters were sentenced to double life sentences for a robbery that allegedly netted $11.  They have always maintained their innocence.  But, guilty or innocent, a growing number of Americans, the freedom riders included, consider the sentences an outrage.  The article from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger is pasted below. 

Just one word of editorial comment: It would be great if more civil rights veterans would step up and condemn the New Jim Crow known as the war on drugs.  Just a thought. (more…)

Mississippi parole board takes up the Scott Sisters case

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? (more…)