Mississippi woman could die in prison for $11 robbery

"I think it would be unimaginable that two white women would be in this situation."...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Evelyn Rasco has been living a nightmare for more than 15 years.

“It’s torture,” she sobs over the phone from her Pensacola, Florida home. “It tortures me on a daily basis.”

The nightmare began on Christmas Eve in 1993 when Rasco’s two daughters, Jamie and Gladys Scott, left a mini-mart near their home in Scott County, Mississippi. Their car broke down, and they hitched a ride from two young men, one of whom they knew. But later that evening, the men were robbed at gunpoint by three teenagers in another car. The robbers got away with an estimated $11 and no one was hurt, but police accused the Scott sisters of setting the victims up.

Although the young women denied having any involvement and had no criminal record, a jury found them guilty of armed robbery. On October 13, 1994, a judge ordered them to each serve double-life sentences in the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, where they remain today.

“It is about race,” says Chokwe Lumumba, a political activist and attorney who’s now representing the Scotts. “I think it would be unimaginable that two white women would be in this situation.”

Lumumba is now in the process of filing a request to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, asking for clemency for the Scotts, who are not eligible for parole until 2014. He’s also working to appeal the conviction, which was first denied in 1996. He says his hope is to find the two co-defendants in the case who initially testified against the Scott sisters under police pressure (and served 10 months through a plea bargain), but later recanted their statements.

“That could give life to another post conviction motion… that would be significant,” says Lumumba.

But time is of the essence.

Jamie, 38, suffers from kidney failure, and according to Rasco, will likely die if she doesn’t receive a kidney transplant. She says Gladys, 34, even offered to donate her own kidney, but the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) will not allow the procedure. It also denied requests from Rasco and other family members to grant Jamie a medical release, stating an inmate must be classified as terminal or totally disabled.

“Everything’s going fine right now, and she’s receiving the proper care,” says Suzanne Singletary, MDOC’s Director of Communications.

Singletary also noted that MDOC’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Gloria Perry, and its Commissioner, Christopher Epps, are both African-American – and in the past year, have approved at least one other organ transplant.

“If an inmate requires a transplant… we tell them to proceed,” says Singletary.

But Rasco, who visited her daughters two weeks ago, says Jamie has continuously received poor medical treatment while incarcerated and currently suffers from infections.

She says she’s determined to free both her daughters, not only for their sake, but for the sake of their children and grandchildren.

She’s getting growing support. Last month, Charles Evers, the older brother of slain civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, organized a rally outside of the Mississippi state capitol building in support of the Scotts’ release.

For Rasco, it’s enough to give her hope that her never-ending nightmare will soon be over.

“I’m not going to stop ‘til Jamie and Gladys walk through my door as free women,” says the 64-year-old. “I may give out, but I’m not gonna give up!”

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