“How Much Is A Life Worth?” That’s the question that national NAACP President Ben Jealous opened his message with in calling attention to what is most definitely a gross miscarriage of justice and blatant racism, Jim Crow style. His message centers on what is taking place in the lives of Jamie and Gladys Scott in Mississippi in the 21st century. This is the kind of story one would read about in history books focusing on slavery of the early to mid 1800’s, or Jim Crow racism of the 1950s — 1960s. The Jim Crowism and blatant racism is right on. It is the date that makes us sick in the stomach.
In December 1993 in Scotts County Mississippi, a robbery occurred wherein three young men (14-18) robbed two other young men at gunpoint and stole $11. The victims were riding to a party with two friends of theirs, Jamie and Gladys Scott, ages 18 and 21. According to the police statement, the two people who were robbed were set up by their friends, Jamie and Gladys.
Accounts of the police report state that the Scott sisters and their two male friends were riding in the same car together to a party. En route to the party, they stopped at a local convenience store. A car parked behind theirs had the three robbers who got out after the Scott sisters went inside the store, and robbed the Scott sisters’ friends. The robbers received two years in prison as a result of providing evidence (their testimony) as noted above against the Scott sisters. Jamie and Gladys, who had no criminal record of any kind previously, each received double life sentences.
On the surface, one would say that was an awful thing for friends to do to each other. On second thought, however, one would have to say that that was a really stupid thing to do because they all know each other. Naturally, one would have to say that there is something wrong with this story. The trial brought out the truth.
During the trial (1994), a new story began to unfold that clearly showed the Scott sisters are innocent. Sadly, between having a lawyer who was later disbarred for incompetence and a racist judicial system, the sisters lost their freedom at trial anyway.
At trial, one of the robbers testified that he and the other two robbers (all were cousins) were coerced by the county police into signing a false statement that implicated the Scott sisters as decoys and accomplices to the robbery, which was not true. He testified that the county police threatened them with severe sentences at one of the nation’s worst prisons, Parchman Farm. The most recent book on Parchman Farm is “Worse Than Slavery”: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal – H-Net Reviews. The threat of Parchman as one’s next domicile for an undetermined amount of time could conceivably cause one to alter one’s testimony, even if only a little, were one to be young, black and male living in Mississippi.
Howard Patrick, who was 14 at the time of the robbery, said that the pressure from the authorities to implicate the sisters began almost immediately. He testified, “They said if I didn’t participate with them, they would send me to Parchman and make me out a female.”
He was referring to Mississippi State Prison, which was once the notoriously violent Parchman prison farm. The lawyer questioning the boy said, “In other words, they would send you to Parchman and you would get raped, right?” “Yes, sir,” the boy said. The teens were sentenced to eight years in prison each, and they were released after serving just two years.
We cannot sit back and allow this kind of miscarriage of justice to flourish in our country. Take action and Sign the NAACP petition to Governor Barbour asking him to free the Scott sisters.
New York Times Review: “Worse Than Slavery”: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice.