By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press
JACKSON – A woman released from prison on condition that she donate a kidney to her sister said Friday she was upset when she heard Gov. Haley Barbour intends to deny their request for pardons.
“I got down on my knees and cried,” Gladys Scott told about 350 people who rallied Friday outside the Mississippi Capitol to support pardons for her and her sister, Jamie Scott.
Republican Barbour, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, released the sisters from prison in January on the condition that Gladys give a kidney to Jamie. Supporters had hoped Barbour’s presidential ambitions might make him more inclined to grant the pardons to boost his image.
During the rally Friday, three men played African drums and protesters stood between rows of bright pink azaleas that line a Capitol sidewalk. Black college students leaned against a massive monument to Confederate women. In the mostly black crowd, a white man carried a poster with the slogan: “Barbour needs a soul transplant.”
The Scott sisters served 16 years for armed robbery but say they’re innocent. Barbour suspended their life sentences and released them.
Jamie Scott suffers from kidney failure, and Gladys Scott offered to donate the organ before Barbour made it a condition of their release. Surgery hasn’t been scheduled because doctors have told them to lose weight.
Barbour told The Associated Press on Thursday that he doesn’t plan to clear the sisters.
Jamie Scott said at the rally that she thanks Barbour for the release, but “Mississippi took 16 years and 32 days of my life.”
She said that without pardons, she and her sister won’t be free.
“Slavery is not dead in the South,” Jamie Scott said. “Let me tell you what it’s called. It’s called the law.”
The women’s attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, vowed to make the pardon an issue if Barbour runs for higher office.
“Everywhere that Haley Barbour looks in this country, if he’s looking for an independent or a moderate or whatever else they call those people that they’re supposed to be getting the votes for, he’s going to see us there waving the banner of the Scott sisters,” Lumumba said Friday.
AP asked Barbour on Thursday if he plans to pardon the Scott sisters. He said: “Tell ’em don’t save any space in the newspaper for that to be announced.”
Barbour has a second-floor office that overlooks the rally site, but he was not at the Capitol when protesters were there.