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Institutional Sadism: For Jamie Scott, an $11 Robbery in Mississippi May Carry a Death Sentence

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Jamie and Gladys say that they had already left the scene to walk home when the robbery took place, and had nothing to do with it. The state insisted they were an integral part of the crime, and in fact had set up the victims to be robbed. Wherever the truth lies, trial transcripts clearly reveal a the case based on the highly questionable testimony of two of the teenaged co-defendantswho had turned state's evidence against the Scott sisters in return for eight-year sentences--and a prosecutor who appears determined to demonize the two young women.

Jamie and Gladys Scott were not initially arrested for the crime. But ten months later, the 14-year-old co-defendantwho had been in jail on remand during that timesigned a statement implicating them. When questioned by the Scotts' attorney, the boy confirmed that he had been "told that before you would be allowed to plead guilty" to a lesser charge, "you would have to testify against Jamie Scott and Gladys Scott." The boy also testified that he had neither written nor read the statement before signing it. It had been written for him by someone at the county sheriff's office, he said, and he "didn't know what it was." But he had been told that if he signed it "they would let me out of jail the next morning, and that if I didn't participate with them, that they would send me to Parchman [state penitentiary] and make me out a female"--which he took to mean he would be raped.The 18-year-old co-defendant who testified against the Scott sisters also said he was testifying against the Scotts as a condition of his guilty plea to a lesser charge.

But the prosecutor succeeded in depicting Jamie and Gladys Scott not only as participants in the crime robbery, but as its masterminds--two older women who had lured three impressionable boys into the robbing the victims at gunpoint. (This despite the fact that the oldest of the co-defendants was just a year younger than Gladys, and was driving around with a shotgun in his car.) In his summation, he told the jury:

They thought it up. They came up with the plan. They duped three young teenage boys into going along and doing something stupid that is going to cost them the next eight years of their lives in the penitentiary.

That probably makes me, at least, as mad about this case, simply at least as much, as the fact that two people got robbed. That three young boys were duped into doing the dirty work.

The prosecutor also reminded jurors that while Jamie and Gladys Scott admittedly did not have a weapon, the judge's instructions "tell you that if they encourage someone else or counsel them or aid them in any way in committing this robbery they are equally guilty."

It took the jury just 36 minutes to convict the Scott sisters. And while there was a range of possible sentences for the crime of armed robbery, the state asked for--and received--two consecutive life sentences for the Scott sisters. In contrast, Edgar Ray Killen, the man convicted in 2005 of manslaughter in the 1964 deaths of civil rights workers Schwerner, Cheney, and Goodman, received a sentence of 60 yearsmeted out by the same judge who presided over the trial of Jamie and Gladys Scott. A direct appeal, carried out by the same lawyers who defended them at trial, failed to overturn the Scotts' conviction.

Because they were tried for a crime committed before October 1994, when even harsher sentencing rules were put in place in Mississippi, the Scott sisters will be eligible for parole in 2014, after they have served 20 years--though there is no guarantee they will receive it. In the meantime, Evelyn Rasco is praying for mercy, for a good lawyer--and for her daughter Jamie to live that long.

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Over 40 years ago in Louisiana, 3 young black men were silenced for trying to expose continued segregation, systematic corruption, and horrific abuse in the biggest prison in the US, an 18,000-acre former slave plantation called Angola. In 1972 and (more...)
 
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