Create a free Diverse: Issues In Higher Education account to continue reading

Mississippi Goddam: Free the Scott Sisters

Nina Simone called it in 1964 with her civil rights anthem. Apparently, not much has changed since. Today, Jamie and Gladys Scott sit in a Mississippi prison, sentenced to double consecutive life sentences for a crime they have denied committing.  Neither had a previous criminal record. 

And what was the alleged crime? Robbery. Was it a violent offense? No. How much was taken?  Eleven dollars. When and where did this happen?  In 1993, outside Forest, Miss.  

On what basis were they convicted?  Two of the three teenagers who committed the robbery testified that the sisters were involved in the robbery, claiming that they lured the two men to the scene, where they were robbed, after which the women left with the robbery victims.  The two teens, who the Scotts knew beforehand, copped a plea — implicating the Scotts — and were released after two years in prison.  

The two sisters, 21 and 19 at the time of the incident, have been in the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility for 16 years.  In addition to losing her vision, 38 year-old Jamie has suffered renal failure and receives dialysis three times weekly. All requests to have her moved to a private hospital for life-sparing treatment have allegedly been denied.  Reportedly, the state’s Department of Corrections will not allow for compatibility testing for a kidney transplant, without which Jamie Scott will die.

This case has attracted national attention.  Blogs and Facebook pages have sprung up lobbying for their release. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has written two columns on the case.  

The NAACP made a formal appeal to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour for a pardon or commutation. As well, the civil rights organization has launched a petition urging Barbour to act swiftly and judiciously. The petition also points out the sentencing judge’s history of racial impartiality.

“The presiding judge in their trial, Judge Marcus Gordon, has a history of racially biased rulings, including granting bail to the KKK murderer of the three civil rights workers: Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner,” states the petition.

I tell you, this thing has Jim Crow written all over it!

That is why there should be millions of signatures demanding the release of the Scott sisters. The mainstream media should put Barbour on blast and he should be subjected to questions about the Scott sisters during all of his media appearances.

To build a critical mass, all civil rights organizations should take to the streets, marching and sitting-in, as they did in the ’60s. Barbour should not be able to go anywhere without seeing picketers.  

Along with the NAACP, Rainbow/PUSH is also involved.  

The National Action Network is another story.  To date, the Reverend Al Sharpton’s organization has not issued any statements or taken any action on behalf of the Scott sisters. This is surprising because this seems like a case tailor-made for Sharpton, with his mega bully pulpit. Certainly, it would have been for the pre-Obama Sharpton.  

And speaking of President Barack Obama, he and his Justice Department should become involved in this case.  After all, it is within the president’s powers to grant pardons.

As Herbert writes in his  “So Utterly Inhumane” column, “This is a case that should be repugnant to anyone with the slightest interest in justice.” 

It seems safe to assume that Barbour is not one of these people. I guess he is busy exploring his options regarding a presidential bid in 2012.   

When asked about his presidential ambitions after the GOP’s sweeping wins in the midterm elections, Barbour said this on CNN:  “I’m gonna sit down after tomorrow and see if there’s anything to think about. But I don’t feel any time pressure over the next few weeks or months.”  

Apparently, Barbour is not feeling any “time pressure” about the life of Jamie Scott or any shame about the draconian nature of consecutive life sentences in this case. This in spite of the fact that in 2008, according to several media reports, Barbour pardoned five brutal killers, in five separate cases. Yet he allows these two women to continue to sit in prison over $11?This is why it is so important that people who believe in freedom and equal treatment under the law sign the petition calling for Barbour to act … or the Justice Department … or Obama. Somebody needs to right this wrong.

In the words of Nina Simone, “Just try to do your very best, stand up be counted with all the rest, for everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam … .”

A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics
American sport has always served as a platform for resistance and has been measured and critiqued by how it responds in critical moments of racial and social crises.
Read More
A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics