One of the benefits of being a United States citizen is the protection of the most advanced legal system the world has ever seen. Our Constitutional system of juries, appeals and pardons injects the spark of humanity into the life-or-death decisions that are passed down every day in our nation’s courts.
But sometimes the system fails us. Judges make mistakes, juries are biased, and sentences are passed down that make “eye for an eye” seem like a fairer method. So it is with the case of the Scott Sisters, which is likely the most egregious example of unfair sentencing in the country today.
The sisters, Jaime and Gladys Scott, were arrested in Forest, Mississippi in 1993 for allegedly luring two men into a robbery that ultimately netted only $11. The actual robbers received far lighter sentences of two years, and much of the evidence has since been cast into dispute. Yet Jaime and Gladys were handed double-life sentences in a non-murder case by Judge Marcus Gordon, who once granted bail to the KKK murderer of the three civil rights workers – Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman. The sisters remain behind bars, even as Jaime is now suffering from kidney failure, near death.
With the case of the Scott Sisters, the system failed us because the judge jumped to conclusions despite reasonable doubt about the sisters’ innocence. It failed us because the judge failed to use proper discretion when passing judgment on two young people, with no prior criminal record, who ran with the wrong crowd. And it continues to fail us every day that Jaime and Gladys sit behind bars, now 17 years into their sentences, due to an unjust and excessive ruling.
However, even when one judge fails to exercise discretion and act with humanity, the American legal system provides alternate routes to correct injustice. And like so much else in the democratic process, we can help right this wrong through grassroots action. In this case, the solution that many advocates like the NAACP and even the Scotts’ former prosecutor are seeking is a pardon by the Governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour. Now is the time for all of us to speak up for justice and speak out on behalf of the Scott Sisters. Sign the petition on the NAACP website asking Governor Barbour to grant a pardon or commute the sentences of Jamie and Gladys Scott to time served. We must not let this flagrant injustice slide; in the words of Dr. King,“injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
This piece was written for Politic365 by Stefanie Brown, the National Field Director and Director of the Youth and College Division for the NAACP. In these positions, Stefanie is charged with developing and administering the national field organizing strategy for the NAACP’s 2,200 adult branches and youth units in 48 states and the District of Columbia.