Board ponders pardon for 2 sisters serving life

JACKSON — An investigator with the state Parole Board is working “exclusively” on the pardon petition of two sisters sentenced to life in prison for an armed robbery that netted $11, the board’s chief said Thursday.

“We will review the case, interview the sisters and make our recommendation to the governor. That’s the normal situation,” said Shannon Warnock, chairwoman of the Parole Board.

The push to free Jamie Scott, 38, and Gladys Scott, 36, has gained momentum in recent weeks. Letters from thousands of supporters and the NAACP have been sent to Gov. Haley Barbour, urging him to grant the pardons.

A rally on behalf of the sisters recently drew hundreds to the state Capitol, and NAACP President Ben Jealous stopped in Jackson to deliver a letter to Barbour’s office.

But Warnock said her panel won’t be influenced by media coverage, which she said has only told half the story. She said the Parole Board usually has access to more information than the general public.

“Certainly, we hear of the media reports, but when our decision is made, we base it on the investigation, the interview and the things we have at our disposal,” Warnock said.

The women were convicted of participating in a 1993 robbery in central Mississippi’s Scott County. The women were found guilty of leading two men into an ambush, court records show. The men were robbed by three teenagers who struck both men in the head with a shotgun and took their wallets, according to court documents.

Chokwe Lumumba, an attorney for the sisters and a member of the Jackson City Council, applauded the board’s immediate action on the petition that was filed Sept. 14.

“I’m guardedly optimistic with what they’re doing,” Lumumba said.

Lumumba has said the women didn’t have prior felony convictions when they were found guilty in 1994.

Barbour’s office has said the governor would base his decision on the Parole Board’s recommendation.

Mississippi NAACP President Derrick Johnson said he didn’t think there were any other details about the case “that would warrant the two to receive the harsh sentences they’ve received.

Johnson said he hopes the women would be released soon. Warnock said the board had no specific timeline.

Lumumba said Jamie Scott has kidney failure. An inmate’s medical condition is among the factors considered for release, Warnock said.

Shelia Byrd/The Assocated Press