Mississippi sisters freed from prison push for pardon

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2011 4:37 PM
Mississippi sisters freed from prison push for pardon

By Leigh Coleman

BILOXI, Miss (Reuters) - Hundreds of protesters rallied on Friday seeking a full pardon for two sisters freed from prison by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour on the condition that one donate a kidney to the other.

Jamie and Gladys Scott each served 16 years for an $11 armed robbery before the governor indefinitely suspended their life sentences, essentially giving them parole.

Barbour's office said on Friday that he has no plans to grant the women further relief.

"Another petition for a pardon will be denied," spokeswoman Laura Hipp told Reuters.

But the Scott sisters and their supporters who marched in the state capital of Jackson were undeterred. They said a pardon would make it easier for them to get jobs and move on with their lives.

And they plan to continue putting public pressure on Barbour, who is considering whether to run for president in 2012.

"If he wants to tell us not to hold our breath, then we will say we do not intend on turning our backs on outrage and injustice," said Chokwe Lumumba, the women's attorney.

The demonstration offered a stark contrast to the quiet lives the sisters have led since getting out of prison in January.

They moved in with their mother in Pensacola, Florida, and have enjoyed the sort of sleep and privacy that was elusive when they were housed with dozens of other inmates in a Pearl, Mississippi, prison.

"Freedom brings better medical care, family and daily justice," Jamie Scott said. "We notice the leaves on the trees and the small things in life you take for granted."

Barbour's order suspending their sentences required Gladys Scott, 36, to donate a kidney to 38-year-old Jamie, who has been on dialysis for several years. The governor said at the time that the operation should be scheduled with urgency.

But things have progressed slowly.

Though Gladys remains eager to help her sister, doctors told Jamie that she needs to lose about 100 pounds before she can be placed on the transplant list.

The sisters said they have been taking aerobics classes and working out with a personal trainer twice a week.

"It was not that hard to lose weight outside of prison because life is so sedentary in prison," their mother Evelyn Rasco said. Jamie "is very active now. They both are."

It has not been determined whether Gladys is a suitable donor. The governor's office said it is unclear how her release would be affected if she proves unable to give her sister a kidney.

The Scott sisters maintain their innocence. They had no prior criminal record before being convicted of robbing at gunpoint two men driving them to a nightclub in Forest, in northern Mississippi, in 1993.

They each received double life sentences.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)