Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gladys Promises to Donate Kidney to Jamie: Haley Barbour Suspends Scott Sisters Sentence for Money Savings

Updated January 1, 2011: ABC News has published an article indicating Gov. Barbour may have broken transplant laws with this deal:
Ethicists say suspending a prison sentence on the condition that one sister give the other a kidney is a "quid pro quo" and threatens the ethical underpinnings of living donation laws. ... Dr. William Hurlburt, a Stanford neurologist who sat on the President's Council on Ethics, said the news was troubling.
Read more at ABC.

Updated December 30: CNN talks to Evelyn Rasco, the mother of Jamie and Gladys Scott, about their impending release.



Jamie Scott was allowed to leave prison briefly for another sister's
funeral since her imprisonment. Here she holds her grandchildren.
Her sister Gladys, reports San Francisco Bay View, was not allowed
to attend.
According to the Associated Press, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has suspended the life sentences of Gladys and Jamie Scott and the condition of Gladys's sentence suspension is that she donate one of her kidneys to Jamie, her sister. Jamie has been on dialysis and her poor health was the catalyst for some activists to push even harder for the sisters' release.

Per the AP:
Barbour is a Republican in his second term who has been mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2012. He said the Mississippi Parole Board reviewed the case at his request and agreed with the indefinite suspension of their sentences, which is different from a pardon or commutation because it comes with conditions.
I'm glad Barbour has paved the way to release the sisters, but his words, as reported by a WLBT TV, leave a bitter taste in my mouth.
... Barbour says, "the Mississippi Department of Corrections believes the sisters no longer pose a threat to society. Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott's medical condition creates a substantial cost to the state of Mississippi."
So, the governor does not admit that sentencing these two women to life in prison was unduly harsh. In fact, he frames the release in terms of their having been a threat and of saving the State of Mississippi the cost of Jamie Scott's medical care. The moral question is would Jamie Scott have gotten better care from the start had she not been in a Mississippi prison when she became ill? Would her kidneys have failed if she had not faced the stress of an unjust sentence?

Given Barbour's retelling of segregationist history in the South, a retelling that indicates he's willing to spin facts any which way he can to make himself appear to have been on the right side, I'm not surprised that he would skirt the issue of actual injustice, Mississippi-style, in the Scott sisters case. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that rarely do government officials and elected politicians admit to injustice, regardless of political party.

The Scott sisters continue to maintain their innocence. In 1994, the pair was convicted of armed robbery (Read my piece on their struggle at BlogHer.com), and the teen males who testified against them were given light sentences in comparison with the two women. One young man was threatened with being sent to Parchman Penitentiary and raped if he did not testify against the sisters, according to the teen's testimony in court. The young men were also asked to sign statements that had been prepared for them that they did not read, according to testimony.

While it was an alleged armed robbery, the women were not said to have handled a gun or other weapon, no one was hurt, and the amount of money taken from the victims has been disputed to be somewhere between $11 and less than $300. The sisters' family's alleged that a Mississippi sheriff sought revenge against the women's father because he refused to pay bribes to the sheriff. No matter whose story you believe, it's hard to escape the notion that life terms were excessive.

I could say a lot more on how Barbour went about this, but really, the contemplation would take me to a very dark place.

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