JACKSON, Miss. — Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Friday that two sisters he released last year on the condition that one donate a kidney to the other showed no remorse for their crime so they weren't among 200 people he gave a full pardon in his final days in office.
Jamie and Gladys Scott 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. Barbour noted at the time that Jamie Scott's dialysis was costing Mississippi about $200,000 a year.
Barbour said Friday during a news conference that the women did "nothing to redeem themselves" so they didn't get a full pardon. Barbour granted more than 200 reprieves in his final days in office. Most of those were full pardons, though some received suspended sentences and others were released for medical reasons. Barbour said nearly 190 had already served their sentences when he issued the reprieves, and some had been released years ago.
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. The women also are required to meet with a parole officer and get permission to travel. They now live in Pensacola, Fla.
"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.
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.
The sisters' lawyer, Chokwe Lumumba, told The Associated Press on Friday that the sisters should have been released long ago and called Barbour's reasoning "absurd."
"You don't have to show remorse for a crime you didn't commit," Lumumba said.
Lumumba said the women have reached out to young people to help with guidance, including in prison where Jamie was known as "Big Momma" and her sister was known "Aunt Gladys" because they mentored other inmates.
Lumumba has said that others involved in the crime have since recanted testimony that implicated them. But, he said, even if they were guilty the sentence was too long. Civil rights advocates marched outside the Governor's Mansion demanding their release in 2010, saying they were sentenced to life because they are black. They were sentenced by a jury made up of five black jurors and seven white jurors. In Mississippi jurors have the option of sentencing defendants to life in prison, and the jury decided to do so in this case, court records said.
Barbour said Friday that he also felt the sentence was harsh. But, during a news conference in which he discussed his decision to grant clemency to dozens of people and spoke of Christian values, he said the women didn't admit guilt or show remorse.
"You can't ask for redemption until you admit that you sinned," he said.
Lumumba said he'll ask new Republican Gov. Phil Bryant to pardon the women.
Bryant's spokesman Mick Bullock said Thursday that, "Governor Bryant has no intentions to pardon anyone."
Lumumba said he's planning a demonstration in April to demand the women's release.
The sisters haven't had the kidney surgery because they haven't lost enough weight for doctors to consider the procedure safe.Comment on this story
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.
Associated Press writers Melissa Nelson in Pensacola, Fla., and Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Miss. contributed to this report.