Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gov. Barbour Finally Pardons Scott Sisters

Those of us in the Black blogosphere have known about the Scott Sisters for quite some time, but if you're not familiar let me summarize the facts of the case for you:

The Scott Sisters, Jamie and Gladys Scott, went to a mini-mart in Forest, Mississippi around 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve 1993.  The two victims, Johnny Ray Hayes and Mitchell Duckworth, also stopped at the same mini-mart around that time after getting off work.  According to the victims, the Scott Sisters approached the two men because they had run out of gas and asked them for a ride to their parents’ home in Hillsboro, Mississippi, a few miles north of Forest.  The two men agreed.

What happened along the ride is up for debate, but the end result is that, at some point, either one of the Scott Sisters or one of the two men pulled the car over along a narrow country road where three teenagers armed with a shotgun ordered the victims out of the car and robbed them at gunpoint and took a whopping $11 dollars from the victims (although it may have been as much as $200).  The next day, deputies from the Scott County Sheriff’s Department arrived at Jamie’s house with a warrant for her and Gladys’ arrest on robbery charges. Ten months later, a Scott County jury comprised of 7 White jurors and 5 Black jurors found the sisters guilty of armed robbery and sentenced them each to double life sentences. (apparently the laws of the State of Mississippi actually allow a LIFE SENTENCE for, we're not joking).  The kicker is that the 3 teenagers who actually held the victims up at gunpoint only received 8 years a piece, and of those 8 year sentences, they each only served about 10 months in prison before they were paroled as a reward for their testimony against the Scott sisters.

The Sisters appealed their sentence up to the Mississippi Court of Appeals which upheld the conviction of the trial court.  The Sisters then appealed that decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which also upheld the conviction.  The Sisters then appealed to the United States Supreme Court which denied certiorari to hear the case.   The Sisters, both mothers, remained in jail for over 16 years until December 29, 2010 when Republican Governor Haley Barbour finally agreed to pardon their sentences after turning down the opportunity to pardon the women on multiple previous occasions. 

Which brings us to Governor Barbour...this guy is a real piece of work.  This is the cat who, in a Weekly Standard interview which posted on December 27, 2010 (2 days before the pardon of the Scott Sisters) said that growing up in Mississippi in the 1960's was "not that bad" and then credited the  White Citizens' Council as a positive organization which did good things in Mississippi. Well, you don't say. Of course it wasn't that bad for you, Mr. Barbour, as a white guy growing up in the segregated South.  Way to put the shoe on the other foot there.  Rachel Maddow was among one of the many many critics who have called Barbour to the carpet for this interview:

Also, consider the following from the NY Times:

In contrast, Governor Barbour has been quite willing to hand get-out-of-jail-free cards to men who unquestionably committed shockingly brutal crimes. The Jackson Free Press, an alternative weekly, and Slate Magazine have catalogued these interventions by Mr. Barbour. Some Mississippi observers have characterized the governor’s moves as acts of mercy; others have called them dangerous abuses of executive power.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections confirmed Governor Barbour’s role in the five cases, noting that the specific orders were signed July 16, 2008:
• Bobby Hays Clark was pardoned by the governor. He was serving a long sentence for manslaughter and aggravated assault, having shot and killed a former girlfriend and badly beaten her boyfriend.
• Michael David Graham had his life sentence for murder suspended by Governor Barbour. Graham had stalked his ex-wife, Adrienne Klasky, for years before shooting her to death as she waited for a traffic light in downtown Pascagoula.
• Clarence Jones was pardoned by the governor. He had murdered his former girlfriend in 1992, stabbing her 22 times. He had already had his life sentence suspended by a previous governor, Ronnie Musgrove.
• Paul Joseph Warnock was pardoned by Governor Barbour. He was serving life for the murder of his girlfriend in 1989. According to Slate, Warnock shot his girlfriend in the back of the head while she was sleeping.
• William James Kimble was pardoned by Governor Barbour. He was serving life for the murder and robbery of an elderly man in 1991.
Radley Balko, in an article for Slate, noted that none of the five men were given relief because of concerns that they had been unfairly treated by the criminal justice system. There were no questions about their guilt or the fairness of the proceedings against them. But they did have one thing in common. All, as Mr. Balko pointed out, had been enrolled in a special prison program “that had them doing odd jobs around the Mississippi governor’s mansion.”
Lastly, consider this: Gov. Barbour is planning on making a run for President in the upcoming 2012 election. 

When you add all of this up it begs the question: did Barbour pardon the Scott Sisters to play damage control for his racial comments?
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