Jamie and Gladys Scott have been in a Mississippi prison since 1994, serving two consecutive double life terms for an armed robbery in which no one was injured. Moreover, they insist that they were not involved, and testimony from a trial transcript published online has witnesses contradicting themselves. Thanks to an energetic advocate named Nancy Lockhart and a growing number of online supporters, a grass-roots campaign is being mounted to petition Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour for their release.
I've listened to interviews with Lockhart and Jamie Scott, and I've read the online trial transcript. I've also looked for independent sources of information about the case, but the databases to which I have access don't go back far enough. I can't find any information about the case in the Scott County, Mississippi news media.
Here are the facts. On the evening of December 24, 1993, Jamie and Gladys Scott, then 19 and 21 years old, ran into Johnny Ray Hayes and his cousin Mitchell Duckworth at a mini-mart in Forest, Mississippi. According to recent statements made Jamie Scott in an interview with Gulfport, Mississippi radio host Rip Daniels, they asked the men for a ride because their car wouldn't start, and they wanted to find a man they knew who could help them. (You can hear that interview below.) According to Hayes and Duckworth's testimony at trial, the women left their car at the mini-mart, asked them for a ride, requested a stop at an apartment complex and a club, and then stopped by the side of the road because one of them said she was sick.
According to the prosecution, at this point, three young men who had been following Hayes, Duckworth and the Scott sisters robbed Hayes and Duckworth at gunpoint. Some of the witnesses say that the sisters then left with the robbers. Hayes said he lost about $200; one of the robbers testified that the take was more like $11.
The three young men, who were 14, 16 and 17 at the time of the incident took a plea bargain.
According to the transcript, two of the young men say they gave statements to the police without their parents or attorneys present. The Scotts' defense lawyer charged that they had been coerced into lying about the Scott sisters' involvement in exchange for a lighter sentence. Advocates for the sisters say the young men have signed affidavits stating that the women were not involved.
To the Scott sisters' supporters, the case is a clear miscarriage of justice.
On the Black Hand Side writes:
"These two women have been incarcerated for more than 14 years. They
received a double life sentence for armed robbery committed on December
24, 1993. As has become typical, one of the men who actually committed
the robbery later said he was coerced. All of the evidence wasn't
presented. You know the rest because these cases appear to have similar
recurring civil rights violations."
Black Talk Radio is also outraged:
"Despite being gainfully employed with no prior criminal record, the
presiding judge sentenced both the sisters to double life in a
Mississippi prison. They have served 14 years separated from their
children and family for a Mississippi injustice."
A blogger at Electronic Village takes issue with the sentence:
" It doesn't matter whether you think that they are innocent or guilty
... the injustice is that the crime does not warrant the amount of
prison time given to these two young Black women."
Word on the Street is pleading for Oprah Winfrey to get involved.
"We are calling for everyone reading this e-mail to take a moment and
send a letter to Oprah Winfrey on behalf of the Scott Sisters. Why?
Because we are pulling out all of the stops in our attempts to bring
this incredible case of extreme Mississippi injustice to the attention
of the nation and world, it is just that compelling!"
You can hear WJZD-FM's Rip Daniels interviewing Nancy Lockhart and Jamie Scott here:
Here is Black Talk Radio's interview with Nancy Lockhart:
Here is a video made on their behalf:
Here is a link to the online petition asking the UN, the US Supreme Court, and human rights organizations to look at the Scott sisters' case.
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