Steal $11, Get Life Sentence

Jamie and Gladys Scott had been serving double consecutive life sentences for helping others to steal $11. Until December 30, that is, when Mississippi’s governor granted a pardon. Happy holidays!

The case is hard to believe:

Amidst ambiguous evidence, the two sisters were accused of luring two men to a spot in rural Mississippi so that three of their teenaged acquaintances could rob them.

The teens who actually committed the hold up pled guilty and implicated the sisters to get lighter sentences. Each of these young men served two years in prison and were released.

Meanwhile the sisters sat behind bars for 16 years, one gravely ill with kidney failure, hoping for a pardon. Bob Herbert of the New York Times said, “Keeping the two of them locked up any longer is unconscionable, grotesquely inhumane.”

Even their prosecutor, Ken Turner (now retired), felt a reprieve was “appropriate.”   

Governor Haley Barbour finally granted a pardon, not because of a gross miscarriage of justice, but based on Jamie’s life-threatening kidney condition, and with a contingency: Gladys must donate a kidney to her sister. An unreasonable sentence isn’t sufficient reason to pardon?

Governor Barbour didn’t have much trouble granting pardons, without restraint, to others who had done far worse. A sampling:

  • Bobby Hays Clark had shot and killed a former girlfriend and badly beaten her boyfriend.
  • Michael David Graham had stalked his ex-wife for years before shooting her to death as she waited for a traffic light in downtown Pascagoula.
  • Paul Joseph Warnock had shot his girlfriend in the back of the head while she slept.
  • Clarence Jones had murdered his former girlfriend, stabbing her 22 times. This was his second suspended life sentence, courtesy of a previous governor, Ronnie Musgrove.

How are these four different from Jamie and Gladys Scott? All were men who killed girlfriends. Maybe Barbour could identify with their plight. Women can be such trouble!

On the other hand, all of these men had also worked in a prison program that had them doing odd jobs around the governor’s mansion. Maybe Barbour is just friendly. It helps to know people in high places.

Or, perhaps Barbour simply didn’t know about the Scott sisters’ plight until the case got widespread media attention. Still, his reasoning behind the pardon is baffling.

Life can be especially hard if you’re poor, black, and female. It all makes me wonder, what kind of justice is this?

Georgia Platts

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 3, 2011, in feminism, gender, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I find it hard to believe that the judge would be harder on the girls who lured the men in than the men who actually robbed the other two men. Yes they had some interaction in the robbery and should be help accountable for some of it, but not be sentenced to life. As stated above, there are other crimes committed in which the perpetrator has not received a full life sentence. For example the Anthony Casillas case, in which he was convicted of two accounts of murder. In New Mexico, a life sentence is designated as 30 years before the possibility of parole. These women do not even come close as to compare to this man but have received a full life sentence until the case was publicized before the judge even thought about pardoning the two.

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