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Haley Barbour Pardons: Mississippi Judge Temporarily Blocks Release Of 21 Inmates

Haley Barbour Pardons Mississippi

HOLBROOK MOHR   01/12/12 07:38 PM ET   AP

JACKSON, Miss. — Two sisters released from a Mississippi prison last year on condition that one donate a kidney to the other were saddened and disappointed they weren't among dozens receiving full pardons from the governor, one of the women said Thursday.

As one of his last acts as governor, Haley Barbour granted more than 200 reprieves, including to those convicted of murder. Most were full pardons, though some received suspended sentences.

Jamie and Gladys Scott had served nearly 16 years of their life sentences for armed robbery when they were released on Jan. 7, 2011. Barbour freed Jamie Scott because she suffers from kidney failure, but he agreed to let her Gladys go on the condition she follow through on her offer to donate a kidney to her sister within one year. Barbour noted at the time that Jamie Scott's dialysis was costing Mississippi about $200,000 a year.

Gladys Scott said Thursday that she "just started crying" when she found out they didn't get a full pardon. Scott said she is in nursing school, but won't be able to become a nurse unless her record is wiped clean.

"I have to report to the Mississippi Department of Corrections for the rest of my life for a crime I didn't commit. I guess if I had been a murderer, he would have pardoned me," she said.

The sisters claim to be innocent, and their lawyer said others involved in the crime have since recanted testimony that implicated them. One of the alleged victims told The Associated Press last year that the sisters planned the 1993 stick up in which he was lured down a dark road and robbed at gunpoint by three teenage boys. Civil rights advocates said the sisters' sentences were far too harsh.

Their lawyer Chokwe Lumumba said during a news conference Thursday that he'll ask new Republican Gov. Phil Bryant to pardon the women.

Bryant's spokesman Mick Bullock said in an email that, "Governor Bryant has no intentions to pardon anyone."

Barbour's representative did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

"It is very contradictory to me ... that you got people accused of killing people, burning their bodies and all that kind of stuff, killing pregnant people, who are walking free without any restrictions and the Scott sisters don't have that kind of freedom," Lumumba said Thursday.

Barbour has not explained publicly why he didn't pardon the sisters and has not told Lumumba, the attorney said.

They haven't had the surgery because they haven't lost enough weight for doctors to consider the procedure safe, but Lumumba said that wasn't likely a factor in Barbour's decision in not pardoning them.

The early release granted to the Scott sisters is different than a pardon because they have restrictions, like reporting to a parole officer every month and having to get permission to travel. The women now live in Pensacola, Fla.

Barbour has been criticized by many for granting the reprieves, mostly to people who had already served their sentences. But some were convicted killers serving life terms.

Late Wednesday, Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green temporarily blocked the release of 21 inmates who'd been given pardons or medical release.

Green issued the injunction at the request of Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood, who said he believes Barbour might have violated the state constitution by pardoning some inmates who might've failed to give sufficient public notice that they were seeking to have their records cleared.

Records show that among the 21 inmates, three were convicted of murder. Two received full pardons and one was given medical release. Three were convicted of manslaughter, but none got a full pardon. One convicted of DUI homicide received a suspended sentence.

There are also questions about at least one of the five inmates who had worked as trusties in the Governor's Mansion and were released this past weekend. Green ordered them to appear before her Jan. 23 to prove they fulfilled the public notice requirements.

Jack Ryan, editor of the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, said Mississippi Department of Corrections officials sent a legal notice for Anthony McCray to run in the newspaper beginning Dec. 12 but it never did because of questions about payments.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Suzanne Singletary has said department records showed the ad was to run from Dec. 12 to Jan. 10. Singletary said the other four had published their intentions.

Lumumba, the Scotts' attorney, said they had published notice that the sisters were seeking a pardon.

Lumumba said he doesn't think the women would be sent back to prison even if they never have the transplant.

"This governor, amongst other things, is a smart man and he knows, he's got to know, that it would be an absolute human rights violation to put any legal imposition on someone because of what they have done or what they have not done to their body," Lumumba said. "There's no way in the world ... that you can make somebody get a kidney transplant in order to get their freedom. That must be going back to burning witches or something like that."

Medical and legal experts have said the kidney donation requirement likely would not withstand legal scrutiny. But putting conditions on parole is a long-standing practice. And governors have sometimes imposed unusual ones, such as requiring people whose sentences are reduced to move elsewhere. For instance, South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow in 1986 commuted the sentences of 36 criminals on the condition they leave his state and never come back.

Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, considered running for president this year but announced last April that he would skip the race. The 64-year-old is now on the paid speakers' circuit and is also working for a Jackson-area law firm and for BGR, the Washington lobbying firm he founded two decades ago.

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Associated Press writers Melissa Nelson in Pensacola, Fla., and Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Miss., contributed to this report.

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