The Scott Sisters Are Free!
This page is a resource for a longer essay at BlogHer.com, "Haley Barbour to Free the Scott Sisters: Beyond Race to the Bitter Aftertaste."
How the Scott Sisters Went To Prison (Abridged Version)By Nordette Adams
When the Scott Sisters were convicted and sentenced to life, they were considered first-time offenders. Neither had a criminal record.
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.The first part of this account is based mostly on the official court transcript. A podcast follows that tells a different story in the words of Jamie Scott.
The robbery took place in 1993, and the sisters' case went to trial a year later in 1994. Three teen males, 14-18, confessed to the crime and received reduced sentences in exchange for signing statements that said the Scott Sisters masterminded the robbery. The victims, two cousins who had stopped for beers after work, picked the young women up at a convenience store. Jamie was about 21 then and Gladys was 19. (The victims as well as the three teens involved reportedly had criminal records of some sort, but again, the sisters did not.)
One of the victims said that he let Gladys, a young woman who he said he didn't know, drive his car. Jamie sat in the back seat with his cousin. They drove a ways down a country road, according to one victim's testimony. It's unclear whether they noticed another car following them or not, but one victim said Jamie complained that she was "sick to her stomach" and going to "throw up." So, the car's owner said something like, "Not in my car!" And demanded that they stop. One of the teens said the victims stopped because Jamie appeared to be fighting with one of the men in the back seat as though protesting that he was getting too "friendly."
After they stopped and just about the time Jamie got out of the car, according to the victims, two of the teens approached the car with a shotgun. One teen was not seen and is assumed to have been in the car.
The victims said the two teens demanded money, and one suggested shooting them. Instead of shooting them, the one with the shotgun hit the two men in the head with the shotgun's butt. Although they didn't mention it when they reported the crime to the police, the victims said a year later that despite being hit in the head with shotguns, they saw Jamie and Gladys leave with the robbers and so they assumed the women must have planned the robbery. (In Jamie's interview below with Rip Daniels, she says that after one of the robbery victims tried to "feel on her" in the back seat, she and Gladys wanted to stop the car and they got out, deciding to walk home instead. After they'd walked away, they heard a commotion behind them, but decided to keep heading home because their father, James Rasco, was home watching their children and he would not be happy about keeping the children much longer.) One victim said the robbers stole "about $200" from him. One of the boys who testfied against the sisters said he received between $9 and $11. The witness did not answer the question of how much money, if any, Jamie and Gladys received. Again, neither victim said Jamie and Gladys took anything from them. They just said Jamie and Gladys left with the robbers.
Jamie and Gladys say they weren't even there, and so they didn't leave with the teens. In 1996, when the sisters' Attorney Chokwe Lumumba first tried to get evidence for a pardon, he got a signed affidavit from a Scott County jail trustee who swore that when he and others went to the scene in 1993 to search for evidence, they found one of the victim's wallets with $60 inside and cards. That evidence was suppressed.
The teen boys, according to the trial transcript (PDF), were told immediately that they could avoid long sentences if they testified against the sisters. One, the 14-year-old, even said in open court that a sheriff threatened him into signing his statement. He was told if he didn't do it, he'd be sent to Parchman Penitentiary where they would "make me out to be a female," meaning he would be raped. And so they signed statements prepared by the sheriff's department without reading them. The teens received sentences such as eight years, but served less than three. Again, the young women received life based on the teens' word and victims' later assumptions that they planned the robbery. And that folks, is Mississippi.
You can read more back story on how the family alleges the sisters' father, James Hawk Rasco, was being shaken down by a black sheriff who was following in the footsteps of the late Glenn Warren, a white sheriff (called the "high Sheriff") who was convicted in 1989 of extortion at a BlogHer post from 2010 here. It includes details such as the family's assertion that Mr. Rasco's nephew turned states' evidence for the FBI after refusing to pay money to the high sheriff, a fee demanded of club owners who wanted to serve alcohol illegally in Scott County, a dry county. Evelyn Rasco, the sisters' mother who continues to fight to clear the girls' names alleges that her late husband and the black sheriff had had bad blood between them since high school. It's also known that Judge Gordon who presided over the sisters' case also represented the Sheriff Warren in his extortion case.
VictimsoftheState.org explains the errors in legal procedure in this miscarriage of justice that resulted in two young women, mothers with five children between them, receiving life sentences.
Also, you can listen to this August 2009 interview on WJZD with Rip Daniels that includes legal analyst and advocate Nancy Lockart who has doggedly pursued justice for the Scott Sisters as well as Jamie Scott. Jamie tells what happened to her and her sister Gladys the night of the alleged crime. They maintain the stories given in court are lies. The call was interview was recorded with Jamie using the prison phone.
In addition, one of the teens who originally testified in writing against the sisters has signed an affidavit since his release from prison recanting his testimony. As reported in Ward Schaefer's thorough article at the Jackson Free Press:
In 1998, (attorney Chokwe) Lumumba contacted Chris Patrick, the only one of the Patrick boys to not testify during the Scott's trial. In a signed affidavit, Chris maintained that the two young women had nothing to do with the robbery; they did not profit from it, nor were they even aware of the plans, he said.
In the video below, listen to Anthony Papa, author of 15 to Life, discussing Haley Barbour's conditions for freeing the Scott Sisters. Also included is activist and Attorney Jaribu Hill sharing what she's seen of life and race in Mississippi.
Contact Nordette Adams here.