MISSISSIPPI INJUSTICE: A DOUBLE-LIFE SENTENCE FOR $11.00!
Scott County, MS —- In a trial fraught with legal malpractice and witness coercion, Mississippi Judge Marcus Gordon oversaw one of the most blatantly corrupt trials in history, culminating in the staggering over-sentencing of sisters Gladys and Jamie Scott to double-life each in an armed robbery where no one was murdered or harmed and the amount alleged to have been taken was a whopping $11.00.
On December 24, 1993, the Scott County Sheriff’s Department arrested the Scott sisters for armed robbery even though three young males, ranging from ages 14 to 18, confessed to committing the crime. Despite this, the corrupt Mississippi sheriff used coercion, threats, and harassment to compel them to turn state’s evidence against the Scott sisters due to a long-standing vendetta against a family member. The 14-year-old male would later testify that he did not read the statement and was pressured to sign a written statement prepared by the sheriff without an attorney being present.
As if that weren’t bad enough, these young women received incompetent legal representation at the lower court trial. Their attorneys, Firnist J. Alexander, Jr. and Gail Shaw-Pierson failed to interview and subpoena witnesses, only calling one witness when there were several. Incredibly, the jury never even heard any testimony from the alleged victims. The sisters were advised to not testify on their own behalf by their attorneys, Alexander and Shaw-Pierson, denying them the opportunity to speak for themselves.
In October of 1994, Jamie and Gladys Scott were sentenced to extraordinary double life terms each in prison, even though neither sister had prior convictions and there was no violence involved in these charges.
The four State’s witnesses provided conflicting testimony and one alleged accuser was not called to testify – he was not questioned or subpoenaed by defense attorneys Firnist J. Alexander, Jr. or Gail Shaw-Pierson. Witnesses admitted however, that reports prepared by the Sheriff, of their descriptions of the event contained no such claim. In other words, the sisters were not present. Jamie and Gladys Scott were not involved in the armed robbery and they did not conspire to plan such. Witnesses all testified that they were coerced and threatened by Deputy Sheriff Marvin Williams. Testimony also revealed that Marvin Williams prepared statements of the events from the night of December 24, 1994 BEFORE obtaining signatures and BEFORE the witnesses were brought into his office. In other words, the statements were not written by witnesses. Three affidavits exist – they all state that the Scott Sisters were not involved in this robbery. One affidavit is written by a trustee of the local jail, his account of the facts reveal that a wallet was located a few days after this alleged robbery and that wallet contained the photo ID of one of the alleged victims of the trumped up robbery and three twenty dollar bills. The trustee also reveals that there was NOT a robbery, he was also threatened to be sent to Parchman Penitentiary if he told the truth.
According to the Request for Commutation of Sentence and/or Pardon prepared by attorney Chokwe Lumumba, the Scott Sisters challenged their convictions on direct appeal; arguing that there was insufficient evidence to convict them, and the guilty verdict was against the overwhelming weight of evidence, which should have exonerated them. The court of appeals found no error and affirmed the convictions on December 17, 1996. As a result, they filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court, which was denied on May 15, 1997. They consequently filed an Application for Leave to File Motion to Vacate Conviction pursuant to the Mississippi Post Conviction Collateral Relief Act. The Supreme Court also denied that application.
This family is shell-shocked, yet determined to fight on. They have tried to have faith that at some point this unbelievable travesty would be corrected and their upside-down lives righted. Yet 14 long years later nothing has changed, the women’s five children are still being raised by their now ailing mother, and their father has died of a massive heart attack because of this. The emotional strain this burden has placed upon their family is immeasurable.
Jamie Scott writes, “What began as an implication and outright miscarriage of justice, has catapulted to destroy an entire family. Gladys was a 19 year old pregnant mother, and myself, Jamie, a 22 year old mother during the time of our arrest, conviction and sentencing for a crime we did not commit.” She continued, “We are convinced that once this chain of events is exposed and unraveled, the events that occurred, the lives that have been destroyed, the pain and suffering the citizens of Scott County have endured; everyone will be utterly amazed, astonished and compelled to assist us in our plight for freedom. We pray that the people would insist upon an investigation into their misconduct and miscarriage of justice.”
Gladys and Jamie’s older brother has recently returned from Iraq and has served in the US Army for 22 years, while his sisters remain victims of wrongful convictions in the very country that he proudly represents. The defendants and their family are wholly depending on support from the press, organizations, and all those dedicated to justice in making this debacle as public as possible.