THE TRAGIC CASE OF THE
SCOTT SISTERS SCHAEFER, PP 14-22
SCHAEFER, PP 14-22
PERKINS, P 25
THE HEAD OF STATE
SPORTS: BOXING FOR LIFE FLYNN, P 35 Vol. 9 | No. 8 // November 3 - 9, 2010
JFP STAFF, P. 42
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Ward Schaefer JFP reporter Ward Schaefer came to Mississippi to teach middle school and is now a journalist. His hometown of Chevy Chase, Md., was not named for the actor. He is slowly learning to play banjo. He wrote the cover story.
Melissa Webster Melissa Webster is a Delta State University graduate. Her life currently revolves around making art, taking care of a neurotic “wildcat” and dreaming of a 124-count pack of Crayolas. She designed the cover art.
Sahil Grewal Sahil Grewal, a native of New Delhi, India, is a management intern at the Jackson Marriot with a bachelor’s in hospitality management. When not perfecting his bartending skills, you can find him sky diving, playing squash or rapping. He created the drink recipe.
Tom Ramsey Tom Ramsey is a lobbyist, former investment banker and tobacco exec. who teaches private cooking lessons and writes poetry and short fiction. He owns Ivy & Devine Culinary Group (www. ivyanddevine.com). He wrote a food piece.
Holly Perkins Editorial intern Holly Perkins is originally from the Jackson area. Holly loves the arts—acting, painting, photography, writing and music. She is a freshman at Belhaven University and hopes to travel the world. She wrote an arts and a music piece.
Latasha Willis Events editor Latasha Willis is a native Jacksonian, a graduate of Tougaloo College and the proud mother of one cat. She is the NAMIWalks team captain. Join her by going to nami.org/ namiwalks10/MIS/jfp2010.
Korey Harrion Web producer Korey Harrion is a saxophonist who runs a small computer-repair business. He enjoys reading, writing and playing music, origami and playing video games. He loves animals, especially dogs. He posts the Web stories for each issue.
November 3 - 9, 2010
Advertising director Kimberly Griffin is a Jackson native who likes yoga, supporting locally owned businesses and traveling. In her spare time she plots how she can become Michelle Obama’s water holder.
by Natalie A. Collier, Associate Editor
Loving the Sinner
hen I was about 9 years old, my cousin Kim and I got into a fight. I don’t remember what we were fighting about, but I got so angry I picked up a vase and hit her in the mouth with it. A chip of her tooth flew across the room, and buckets of tears gushed through her closed eyes as she gripped her mouth shut. I threatened her not to tell my mother, convincing her we’d both be punished if she did. And so she didn’t. I knew my punishment would be more severe than any she’d receive. She’d hurt my feelings, but she had a chipped tooth and a bloodied top lip. We hurriedly flushed the piece of tooth down the toilet and sat in my room waiting for her lip to stop bleeding. Things were back to normal by the evening for my cousin and me. I whispered, “Sorry” to her when we’d finished quoting “Now I lay me down to sleep …” on our knees that night. My grandmother always taught me if you never did anything to get into trouble, you wouldn’t have to worry about trouble. There is great merit to that life philosophy, but some of us do things that warrant punishment. In February 2005, police pulled James V. Taylor over on a routine traffic stop. Police found a crack pipe in his car and, according to reports, an “unweighable” amount of crack cocaine. Farmington, Mo., police arrested Taylor, and he was eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison. He served four of those years. Taylor shouldn’t have had a crack pipe, but there’s something excessive about his punishment, much like the double life sentence Judge Marcus Gordon handed down to Jamie and Gladys Scott in 1994 for stealing $11 to $200 (the exact amount is still unclear). In Ward Schaefer’s cover story this week about the Scott sisters and their mother’s onewoman campaign to free them, the fallacies of our judicial system advertise to all who will look that America isn’t quite what we claim: a country that offers liberty and justice for all. Critics of convicted criminals like Jamie and Gladys Scott, James Taylor and others sing a similar chorus: “They did the crime; they should do the time. … If crimes go unpunished, we may as well be living in a lawless society.” But these situations aren’t about not punishing wrong. They’re about compassion, grace and—I must—race and economics. Last August, police arrested the notorious Hilton spawn, Paris, for 0.8 grams of cocaine that fell out of the purse she was carrying. Hilton was sentenced to a year of probation, a drug-rehabilitation program, 200 hours of community service and a $2,000 fine. How does 0.8 grams of cocaine get a year of probation but a crack pipe and an “unweighable” amount of crack cocaine warrant 15 years in prison? Prosecutors defend such disparities by claiming crack gets into one’s bloodstream faster than powder cocaine because it’s smoked not snorted, making for a more intense high and greater chemical dependency. That would
be a good explanation, if I believed it. I don’t. When then-President Ronald Reagan started the War on Drugs in the ’80s, it seemed to be the black crack users in blighted urban areas he and his soldiers were concerned most about. And so the war continues. In the mid-1970s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice and Statistics, the America’s prison population was about 300,000. This year, the number has spiked at about 2.4 million prisoners. This doesn’t take into account the number of people on probation or parole, which would increase the number to about 5 million people. Seventy percent of those nearly 7.5 million are people of color—nonwhite. Yet 74.8 percent of the country’s 310 million people are white. Something ain’t right. People of color are disproportionately incarcerated for crimes their white brothers and sisters in offense are slapped on the wrist for. It’s all too convenient to be a coincidence. If we’re honest, it won’t change any time soon. While there are people who want to reform the criminal justice system, a reformation begs for a serious and intentional look at skin color and money (or lack thereof). A cultural shift in the criminal-justice system—from punishing to rehabilitating—requires that we not just have a 25-plus-year war against drugs that no one’s won. It necessitates that we are for something. That we do something other than build more prisons during the day and gripe about public schools at night. It seems not many people are interested in that, though. When I overhear people talking about being “pro-life,” I can’t help but interrupt to ask if they’re for the death penalty. The many who are in favor of both don’t see hypocrisy in their beliefs. Occasionally, someone will ask me in return, “Aren’t you in favor of the death
penalty?” My response is rarely different: “If there was equal justice under the law, I might consider it. Until then, no, I’m not.” We live in an advanced society. We can call, text or video chat someone thousands of miles away without a second thought. We’re growing, as a people, to be not just tolerant of but accepting of people who look, act and believe differently than we do. Political correctness has its cons, but its introduction to dialogues has also forced us to chose our words carefully and consider our enemies, not just our friends. But with all that advancement, we still find ourselves holding on to primitivity. The Babylonian’s Code of Hammurabi, which dates back to about 1760 BCE, says just punishment is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, depending on social status of slave versus free men. Centuries later, though most people would never publicly embrace this philosophy of punishment, our justice system repeatedly proves it’s our way of life. People scream about being fair, but we don’t want fair. If things were fair, many of us would have never passed that class, landed that job or gotten out of that speeding ticket. We need new standards of compassion and grace. People who do wrong should be punished, but when do grace and compassion become part of the equation? When do we start to love the sinner and hate the sin, as I was always taught, growing up in church? Decisions, good and bad, have consequences. They should. But throwing the proverbial book at people who’ve wronged us should give us pause as we consider what happens if the book boomerangs. Don’t talk to me about equality; show it to me. Sorry, Kim, about your tooth. Thanks for teaching me a life lesson I’ve never forgotten.
No ve m be r 3 - 9, 2010
9 NO. 8
Change for Real Entergy calculates the cost of climate change and seeks to lower its carbon footprint.
Cover illustration by Melissa Webster
COURTESY ENTERGY CORPORATION ; WARD SCHAEFER ; COURTESY EVELYN RASCO; COURTESY UNIVERSITY PRESS OF MISSISSIPPI
THIS ISSUE: Inching Along .............. Editor’s Note
......................... 8 Days
.................. JFP Events
........... Music Listings
... Road to Wellnessw
Developers of the convention hotel complex are working hard to find financial backers.
dr. shirley schlessinger When Dr. Shirley Schlessinger was a young medical student at Baylor Hospital in Dallas, an encounter with a patient who desperately needed a transplant became the catalyst for devoting her career to organ recovery. “I came across the path of a young woman that after three pregnancies had become bed ridden from blood clots in her lungs,” Schlessinger recalls. After visiting the patient daily, she knew that without a transplant, the woman would not survive. “The interaction with that patient made me realize that transplants can either extend or save lives,” she says. “A transplant not only changes the lives of the patients, but it affects their caregivers as well. Parents are able to go back to work if … they were the primary care giver. Siblings are ‘reborn’ with their brother or sister, and return to somewhat of a normal life. It is a very rewarding area of medicine to work in.” Schlessinger, 51, is the medical director and chairwoman for the Board for the Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency—one of 57 federally funded organ-recovery programs in the nation. She is the associate dean for graduate medical education, and interim chairwoman at the department of medicine and physician at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She is also one of the organizers of the Global Obesity Summit at the Jackson Convention Center Nov. 9 through 11. The event will draw international scientist, clinicians,
businesses leaders and policy makers to discuss solutions to obesity. “I am wearing way too many hats, it seems,” she says, laughing. Schlessinger earned her doctorate from Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans and moved to Jackson in 1985 with her husband, Louis, to study internal medicine. She left briefly for a stint in Birmingham to learn nephrology, the study of kidney diseases. She moved back in Jackson in 1993 for her current position at MORA. Currently, about 200 people in Mississippi are on the waiting list for kidneys, and 500 patients are waiting lists for other organs. “Mississippians are giving and kind people, and although the actual number of confirmed donors is low, overall 60 to 70 percent of donors whose organs can be donated, either they agreed, or in the case of death, the family agreed for them to be donated,” she stated Schlessinger lives in Ridgeland with her husband, son, Drew, 18, and daughter, Allie, 14. She says she has seen Jackson grow and make tremendous progress over the past 25 years, which has increased opportunities for UMMC to prosper. At the end of the day, Schlessinger says working with people is what she enjoys most about her job. “I still really enjoy my role as a physician,” she says. “The best day of the week is the week I get to see patients.” —Langston Moore
14 Scott Travesty The Scott sisters’ supporters wait for Gov. Haley Barbour to dispense justice after 16 years.
26 Sourcing Truth Rewriting history is a hobby for Civil War buffs. Go to the source materials for the truth.
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Entergy: Global Warming Threatens Coast
by Adam Lynch
COURTESY ENTERGY CORPORATION
ntergy Corp. says the Mississippi Gulf In 2006, the global CO2 amount was 380 level, which the company said puts at risk its Coast will suffer $370 billion in losses parts per million, so the company estimates customer base and billions of dollars of investto global warming if power companies the planet is adding an extra 2 parts per mil- ment in the Gulf Coast area. do not offset the amount of carbon lion every year. A peak of 480 parts per mil“We commissioned a ($4 million) study they are putting into the environment. lion would produce a 70 percent to 85 percent of the Gulf Coast from Alabama to Texas. … Jeff Williams, director of Entergy’s Cli- chance of global temperatures increasing up to We mapped it out, and did … modeling on mate Consulting division, released an Oct. 21 1.8 degrees Celsius. hurricane tracks, and calculated what the hazPowerPoint acknowledging that ards would be from more intense global warming is a reality and storms and sea-level rising,” Wilthat the power industry must liams said. act immediately to counter it. The company compared po“It’s not a question of if tential losses under three climateman’s activity will warm the change scenarios and determined planet. Ninety eight percent of that its customer base is looking scientists agree that it is. The at a cumulative estimated loss of question is how much impact $370 billion from 2010 to 2030 we’re talking about and when it as climate change takes hold. will happen,” Williams told the “It’s tough to get your head Jackson Free Press Friday. around that large a number,” The company warned that Williams said. “You could rethe planet may be “approachbuild all the buildings in the city ing tipping points of no return” of New Orleans six times over for regarding sea-level rise, more in- This Entergy PowerPoint slide reveals that the company anticipates $370 billion.” tense storms and massive world- global warming to cost the Gulf Coast $370 billion cost by 2030. This is not the first time the wide food and water shortages company has sounded the alarm. as a result of global warming. Entergy Corp. and its affiliates Entergy said the amount of carbon in That temperature change could prove Entergy Mississippi Inc. and Entergy Louisithe atmosphere has been rising steadily since problematic for the Mississippi Gulf Coast ana Inc., among others, are members of the 2006. The company reports that in 2010, the and other areas of the world: Entergy reports Edison Electric Institute—an association of planet reached almost 390 parts per million of that a rise of 2 degrees Celsius increases the shareholder-owned electric companies serving CO2 emissions. (One part per million CO2 probability of melting the Greenland ice sheet 70 percent of the U.S. power industry. equals 2.1 billion tons of CO2 above what and adding 20 feet to the planet’s sea level. Last year, EEI worked with House Demthe earth’s carbon sinks—areas that absorb Coastal areas, it adds, are already experienc- ocrats Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and others carbon in the land and ocean—can remove.) ing hazards related to climate and a rise in sea ENTERGY, see page 8
o balance the scales should Gov. Haley Barbour decide to pardon the Scott sisters, The JFP has come up with a list of pardonable offenses committed by the governor.
• Forgetting the JFP’s anniversary every year. We don’t even get a card. • Never picking up his “Best of Jackson” awards. • Always starting every speech with Marsha. • Forgetting that Mississippi schools weren’t integrated when he was in college. • Spending more time on the RGA
campaign circuit than in Mississippi. • Buying us things we don’t want, like a coal plant. • In advance, if he runs for president. • His syrupy accent … Nah.
Thursday Oct. 28 The presidential commission on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill finds that Halliburton and BP knew the cement used to seal the bottom of the well did not meet standards, but did not act on this knowledge. … New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announces a pilot program sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department to aid victims of domestic violence. Friday Oct. 29 Two packages carrying explosives from Yemen destined for synagogues in Chicago are detained in Dubai and Britain. … Gunfire erupts during a football game between Newton and Scott Central High Schools in the parking lot. One man is injured; the gunman remains at large. Saturday Oct. 30 Around 220,000 people gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The rally is a response to Glenn Beck’s August Rally for Restoring Honor, which attracted about 80,000. … The Beverly Drive-In Theater burns in an early-morning fire. The Hattiesburg theater was one of the state’s endangered historic places, as named by the Mississippi Heritage Trust. Sunday Oct. 31 Theodore Sorensen, adviser, strategist and speechwriter for John F. Kennedy, dies at the age of 82. … The New Orleans Saints defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 20-10 in the Superdome.
• Not walking, Mississippi.
• Drooling while confusing chocolate mousse and oil.
Wednesday Oct. 27 The U.S. Geological Survey announces a drastic cut in the amount of oil estimated in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, from 10.6 billion barrels to 896 million barrels. … The Mississippi Supreme Court rules the write-in election of a judge for the 13th Judicial District will take place.
“I didn’t craft the deal, but I’m the guy who has to make sure we consummate it. We are working hard to do that.” —Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. commenting on the city’s obligations for building the convention center hotel complex.
Monday Nov. 1 Nineteen members of the on-duty police force of Khogyani, Afghanistan defect and join Taliban forces. … Bill Minor, former Mississippi State senator and current Northern District commissioner of transportation, dies while attending a national transportation conference. He was 68. Tuesday, Nov. 2 Voters head to the polls in an election that could shift the balance of power in national politics to Republican conservatives.
news, culture & irreverence
As of 2005, the rate of incarceration for African Americans in Mississippi was about three-and-a-half times higher than whites and three times higher than Latinos. Nationally, the disparity between blacks and whites is even greater, with the black rate six times higher than whites. SOURCE:THE SENTENCING PROJECT.
The JRA’s Jason Brookins weighs in on Hinds’ exotic financial deals. p 10
Public schools do more than educate children. They measure a city’s pride. They reflect community. They predict the social and economic well-being of a city’s future. For 20 years, Parents for Public Schools of Jackson has worked to keep our public schools strong, to empower parents as leaders for positive change, and to engage community support of our public schools.
Join us. For our city. For our children. For our future.
Founding Chapter, Parents for Public Schools, 1989 200 N. Congress, Suite 500, Jackson, MS 39201
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ENTERGY, from page 7
on a legislative proposal to reduce climate change. The proposal included cap-and-trade legislation, which puts limits on the carbon a power company can dump into the atmosphere. To avoid reaching that cap, a carbonemitting company can purchase carbon permits from another power-producing company that has earned substantial permits by investing in renewable, carbon-light energy production, such as solar or nuclear technology. However, the bill drew animosity from coal-based power generators, who managed to derail the legislation despite their small number. Companies challenging the climate bill comprise about 6 percent of shareholderowned power companies and only serve about 4 percent of the country’s electricity users, but they found a friend in the Republican Party, which refuses to support the climate bill or any effort to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. The New York Times reported in October that “large-scale efforts to pass a broad U.S. climate policy are off the table for at least a couple of years,” when Republicans erode Democratic control of the House and Senate. But power companies like Entergy say they want to see some effort in Washington so they can know to what extent they can invest in renewable power production. Specifically, the company wants to be able to sell carbonneutral tax credits to other power companies to fund its expensive transition to nuclear and renewable power generation and steer the cost of investment away from Entergy rate-payers. “What we need is certainty,” Williams said. “We’re investing in long-term, (carbon-reducing) assets, and it would be helpful to know what regulatory regime will be in place. We’re an advocate of putting a price on carbon and allowing the market to pick the most efficient path forward. In advance
of knowing if there’s going to be a price on carbon, we would be at risk of investing in technology, only to find that the policy wasn’t there (to support it) later.” Industry critics say they worry if power companies are pushing the climate-change debate to contain the costs of dicey investments in “clean coal” or nuclear technology. Mississippi Power Company recently received approval from the Mississippi Public Service Commission to charge ratepayers for the construction of a $2.8 billion Kemper County coal-burning plant designed to capture roughly half its carbon dioxide. Environmental groups like the Mississippi Sierra Club oppose the plant, saying it is an untested and overly expensive alternative to cheaper solar technology, and has filed an injunction against its construction in Harrison County Chancery Court. Mississippi Sierra Club Executive Director Louie Miller also opposes expansions in nuclear technology. “I’ll stand with nuclear the day they can tell me where they’ll keep all the radioactive waste, which stays toxic for thousands of years,” Miller said. Entergy used Electric Power Research Institute figures to show how nuclear power and carbon-capture coal plants like the Kemper County plant could remove 500 million metric tons of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere by 2030. But Williams said the company is open to a myriad of carbon-saving measures, including renewable energy investment like solar and wind energy, and efficiency investments on the consumer end if it meant stabilizing the Gulf Coast economy. “We view this as a risk-management challenge—taking the worst potential outcome off the table as an insurance policy. One thing people don’t understand is that not doing something is a kind of decision in itself, and it’s the costliest decision we could make for the country,” Williams said.
Development Roundup: JRA Eyes Farish, Delays on Arena
by Ward Schaefer
November 3 - 9, 2010
Developer David Watkins will meet with the JRA to settle a rent dispute over space at Union Station.
he Jackson Redevelopment Authority’s Oct. 27 board meeting saw few major steps forward but many hints at future projects. JRA Executive Director Jason Brookins told board members that several developers have expressed interest in the old Holiday Inn property on Highway 80. Brookins said that he was in preliminary discussions with some landowners around the Farish Street Entertainment District about development plans beyond district. Future JRA projects in the area would almost certainly include land acquisition, Brookins said. Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Bar-
rett-Simon has suggested the possibility of expanding the “urban renewal area” designation that currently covers the Jackson Medical Mall to include the industrial park at Mayes and Lawson streets. Board members also delayed a decision on contributing to an arena feasibility study by consulting firm Populous. A study committee including Downtown Jackson Partners and other business representatives has already commissioned Populous for the study and solicited private support, but JRA lawyers said that they needed more time to review the details of a potential contribution. The board moved to a closed session to discuss the payment of back rent on office space at Union Station with former law partners David Watkins and Jim Young. Board members directed Brookins to meet with both Watkins and Young to settle on a figure for back rent before renewing their leases.
by Adam Lynch
PEER Questions Funding
he Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review is warning against the likelihood of the Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District Levee Board funding a lake or similar impoundment for flood control in the Pearl River. A PEER report determined that progress on actually nailing down some means of flood control—be it a levee expansion, a container lake or a combination of both—was too slow. Noting delays, it also recommended the Levee Board deliver to the state House and Senate, as well as to PEER, an annual report of its progress by Dec. 31. PEER has offered similar suggestions in the past, but it usually reserves annual report requests to state agencies—even though PEER said in the report that it defines the district as having “more in common with the political subdivisions of local government than a state agency.” The report stated that the Levee Board has considered multiple plans to avoid another 1979 Easter Flood, including a massive ”Two Lakes” plan impacting more than 7,000 acres of wetland and woodland area, and a more
Engineers are comparing the scenic Trinity River project in Fort Worth, depicted here, to the local Levee Board’s continuing effort to create a lake plan for the Pearl River.
he Rankin-Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District can take a lesson from Fort Worth, Texas, Waggoner Engineering owner Joe Waggoner said at the Oct. 27 Levee Board meeting. Waggoner drew a comparison between an ongoing river-development project in Fort Worth to the Levee Board’s single-lake proposal for the Pearl River. “I think you should consider going out to visit this area,” said Waggoner, whose company does some engineering work for the Levee Board and who supports the Board’s decision to promote damming the Pearl River to create a 1,200-acre lake. “This is a combination Corps project with a local sponsor, only they’ve gotten their feasibility study approved by the Corps, and they’ve begun construction on it. ... The whole project will be ready in about 2021.” By comparison, the local Levee Board has only recently convinced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider a lake plan for the Pearl River in its upcoming feasibility study on Pearl flood control. For years, the Corps has steadfastly refused to include a lake plan in the study because it clashed with Corps man-
recent one lake plan that floods only the channelized portion of the Pearl River, south of Lakeland Drive. PEER declared that the Levee Board’s more recent endorsement of a one-lake plan is an improvement over the earlier lake plan, saying that the bigger lake plan “appears to exceed financial feasibility.” Aside from the impractical litigation costs of inundating precious wetland, PEER also noted that the district appears to have “no apparent definable plan to finance the construction” of the larger lake project, and that “the apparent absence of the authority of eminent domain weakens the ability of a private entity to obtain the land necessary to construct such a massive project.” The state investigative agency notes that financing any flood-control project will not come easy. The Corps has shown willingness to move forward on a simple levee expansion, but PEER cites that the state Legislature twice failed to help fund the local share of the project which was only $38 million. Part of the roadblock consisted of representatives further downstream who feared the expanded bottleneck of the larger levee would
This lake design is one of the many concept plans the local Levee Board has considered over the last 10 years. A recent PEER report advised the Levee Board to step up progress on choosing a plan.
increase the flow of floodwater to their area. PEER reported that an amendment to one of the bills financing the local share in 1995 “required the persons responsible for paying all bonds authorized for levee construction to also be responsible for bonding funds necessary to repair damages caused by increased flooding south of the Jackson area.” Money issues will continue to plague whatever plan the Levee Board endorses. Waggoner Engineering owner Joe Waggoner suggested the board recess Oct. 11 while his company gathered information on what the
Lessons From Texas? dates to only approve and fund a flood-control plan with the least environmental impact. The Corps has insisted that a plan to expand existing levees carries the least environmental risk. Waggoner said both Jackson’s lake project in Jackson and the Texas plan offer flood control, economic development and recreation. The Texas plan produces 800 acres of developable area, while the most recent lake plan endorsed by the Levee Board would open 1,000 acres to new development if the Corps gives it the go-ahead. Both plans offer considerable potential for mixed-use development, commercial, retail, and pedestrian walking trails and open space. Both the Pearl and Trinity rivers have an annual average peak flow of about 30,000 to 40,000 cubic feet per second according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Over the last 120 days, the USGS says the Pearl averaged 13,688 cubic feet of discharge per second, while the Trinity River averaged a slightly higher rate of 16,435 cubic feet per second. Both rivers reached a record peak of about 120,000 cubic feet per second, although the Pearl hit its record in 1979, while Trinity did its worst flood damage in the 1940s. The projects differ in other regards. Developers of the Trinity River project plan to divert the river through a 1.5-mile bypass featuring high levees, while using flood-control gates and valley storage areas to maintain the water depth of the original winding riverbed. The Trinity project makes the original lake bed a bastion of stable, flood-free development and creates a modest 33-acre lake. The Pearl plan, in contrast, would install
district would need to do to fund the local share of any flood-control development. The district would likely have to expand and fund any development with a property-tax increase, but most of the board members serve as mayors of various cities surrounding the Pearl River, and step gingerly around the idea of property-tax increases to their voters. Waggoner did not broach the topic of the tax increase or the district expansion at the Oct. 27 meeting, however, and the mayors on the board did not inquire that day as to why.
by Adam Lynch
underwater dams beneath the Pearl River and deepen the river channel, creating a 1,200acre lake that may or may not effectively hold flood waters without the addition of a levee expansion. The Corps has yet to determine the necessity of levees in the feasibility study. The Levee Board voted to pursue the one-lake plan “with or without levees,” depending on what the Corps determined would provide adequate flood control. The Trinity River project price tag is $909 million with a $435 million local share, while Levee Board engineers suspect the Pearl lake development could run $500 million. Both projects have the benefit of a 50 percent federal share in the cost, but the Trinity project is already off the ground in terms of funding for its local share. The federal sponsor kicked in 50 percent, while the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County dedicated a combined $17 million to the cause. Other local sponsors include the Trinity River Vision Authority. A spokeswoman for Trinity River Vision Authority told the Jackson Free Press that the Tarrant Regional Water District dedicated $64 million to the construction of the bypass channel and bridges, courtesy of natural gas and drilling revenue along District-owned lakes. Besides the $64 million seed money, the Tarrant Regional Water District also invested $17.5 million to buy land for the project and kicked in a separate $226 million loan to the tax-increment financing deal that makes possible the local share portion of the funding. A TIF plan uses predicted tax gains from
a proposed development to finance that same development. By borrowing against anticipated property-tax revenues, a city, county or government authority relies on the new development to fund the bond, which the government agency sells on the bond market. The difference between the Trinity and a local King Edward TIF, however, is that the Tarrant Regional Water District made the loan to a development sponsor, the nonprofit Trinity River Vision Authority, until the TIF can start generating money. They also generously extended their TIF to 40 years. They can do this because the district had access to $160 million in surplus funds as recently as June, and predicted another $30 million more in annual revenue generated from oil and gas royalties. The Levee Board, comparatively, does not have the benefit of any oil or mineral revenues. In fact, the Levee Board has yet to iron down exactly how they plan to fund the local share. Mayors on the Levee Board are hesitant to speak of tax increases on Hinds and Rankin County property home-owners, and the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review predicted that funding flood control in the area will be difficult, considering how easily legislators shot down bills making the Levee Board the local sponsor of a $38 million levee expansion in 1995 and 1996. Nevertheless, Levee Board Chairman Billy Orr said he and some members of the board should make plans to visit the people behind the Trinity River project, in hopes of gaining some insight on a funding mechanism.
by Ward Schaefer
Stopping the Swap
based on a floating rate tied to market trends. Governments and other organizations can use a swap to lock in a fixed interest rate on bonds that would otherwise carry a floating rate. They can also use them in the reverse, lowering the cost of their bond debt by betting that floating interest rates will rise above a fixed rate. Some municipalities, like Jefferson
inds County’s interest-rate swap won’t always be the gift that keeps on giving. The fancy financial derivative deal has brought the county $4.4 million over four years thanks to historically low interest rates, county financial adviser Porter Bingham says. With the national economy on a glacially slow but eventual rise, though, the county may have the opportunity to end its swap with a profit, before interest rates begin climbing again in earnest. Bingham, CEO of the Atlanta-based Malachi Group, approached the Hinds County Board of Supervisors with a twofold proposition at its Oct. 18 meeting. First, he asked the board to renew a “collar” that protected the county from almost all risk associated with the swap. Next, he asked the board to give him approval in advance to terminate the swap if the market presented an opportunity for significant profit. After the board voted unanimously to approve both of Bingham’s requests, Board President Robert Graham joked that Bingham’s presentation had “thoroughly confused” the supervisors. In its simplest form, an interest-rate swap involves two parties exchanging interest payments. One party will swap its fixed-rate interest payments for another party’s payments
County, Ala., nearly went bankrupt with such bets when interest rates plummeted several years ago. The county’s interest-rate swap is far more esoteric, using two bond issues and two different floating rates. Bingham describes it as a “synthetic refinancing.” It still follows the same basic trends, however, as the plain vanilla
form: The swap’s benefit to the county rises and falls depending on interest rates. In July the board renewed the collar on the smaller portion of the interest-rate swap— one based on a $7.5 million bond issue. The collar on the larger portion, based on a $39.5 million chunk of bond debt, expired Oct. 15. For three years, it protected the county from suddenly owing money to its counter party in the transaction, Rice Financial Products, if interest rates trended unfavorably. “Those collars have prevented the county from being exposed to the vagaries of the market,” Bingham told supervisors. This time, Bingham recommended that the board only renew the collar for six months, in part because interest rates are increasingly likely to rise. “What has made this transaction work for the county is that we put the collars on at a time when rates were much higher,” Bingham said. “We can guess with some degree of certainty that if interest rates are at 40year lows, at some point, as the economy begins to recover, then that pendulum will swing back in the other direction.” The likelihood of a rebound in interest rates also presents the county with the opportunity to end its swap while it is still profitable. Bingham said that the county might be able to end the transaction for an additional profit
November 3 - 9, 2010
of between $1 million and $3 million. That figure depends on market trends, however. Bingham said that the county would have to decide to stop the swap within a matter of hours to take advantage of such a profit. “There will be a point in the not-too-distant future where this transaction, as it moves back to some normal yield curve, will show you an inordinate amount of profit,” Bingham said. “(The decision) has to be somewhat immediate. You might be able to say, ‘Let me call you back. Give me an hour. Give me two.’ But you won’t have a day or two or three.” As with any deliberative body, urgency is not the board’s strong suit. Supervisors first appeared hesitant to grant any advance approval for ending the swap. “If it was sent to me, I wouldn’t dare make a decision without consulting the other board members,” Graham said. “I’m definitely not going to make a million-dollar decision on my own.” The board ultimately settled on a $1 million profit threshold for terminating the swap, the lower end of what Bingham said the county could expect to make. Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution giving County Administrator Carmen Davis the authority to sign off on the swap’s termination if the million-dollar decision presents itself. Comment at www.jfp.ms.
PA I D A DV E RT I S E M E N T
harles Breunig and his family love Papa John’s Pizza. In fact, they love it so much that they own two of Jackson’s very own. For years Breunig worked in the corporate ofﬁces for a hamburger business, and when deciding how to move closer to his wife’s family in New Orleans, he looked into business opportunities in Jackson. He found his answer in the “for sale” advertisement of eight Papa John’s stores in the metro Jackson area, and he and Owner, Charles Breuning his family became the proud owners of two franchises in Jackson. “We have always loved Papa John’s,” says Breunig. “When it came to pizza this was the family favorite.” No wonder…the menu selections have something for every pizza fanatic. The Works (pepperoni, ham, spicy Italian sausage, fresh sliced onions, green peppers, gourmet baby portabella mushrooms, and ripe black olives) or the BBQ Chicken Bacon (authentic BBQ ﬂavor, featuring tangy BBQ sauce and piled high with grilled all-white chicken, hickory smoked bacon and fresh sliced onions) are just a few favorites. While specialty and traditional pizzas are offered, customers can also order dessert pizzas, such as the favorite cinnamon dessert pizza. Simply add appetizers to your order or make them your meal: try the fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven cheese sticks, bread sticks or wings. Breunig said Papa John, actual founder John Schnatter, is a fanatic about his ingredients and the quality of the product. Schnatter’s dream was to one day open a pizza restaurant that would provide superior-quality traditional pizza delivered right to the customer’s door. In fact, Schnatter sold his 1971 Z28 Camaro to purchase the restaurant equipment he needed to make his dream come true at his father’s tavern, Mick’s Lounge in Jeffersonville, Indiana. “Making a quality pizza using better ingredients has been the foundation of Papa John’s,” said Breunig. “In our Jackson locations, our customers are familiar with our store and the great pizza they enjoy in their homes. Also familiar to customers are the faces of our employees because we have had some of the most loyal ones for over ten years.” Breunig is proud to be a part of the Jackson community, by living, working and playing in Jackson. Papa John’s helps with school, church and organization fundraisers on a regular basis; in fact, if your group is interested, call Breunig at 601-573-1172. Papa John’s is fast-casual, convenient and friendly; order online www.papajohns.com, and it’ll be delivered within 30 to 35 minutes or ready at the store for pick up within ten to 15 minutes. If you have a big order, just call a day or two ahead to have your special order request fulﬁlled. Visit Papa John’s two Jackson locations at 1220 E. Northside Drive at Maywood Mart (601982-2007) or 717 W. McDowell Road (601-373-1112). Both locations are open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight.
by Lacey McLaughlin
Convention Hotel Waits on Financing
Jackson Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Jason Brookins said the city may expand the Jackson Convention Complex by obtaining additional properties TCI-MS developers purchased in 2007.
a great benefit to the convention center.” The resolution also states that JRA will reimburse the developer for all “eligible costs and expenses incurred by the redeveloper with respect to the project.” This means that after JRA receives money from selling the bonds, JRA will give the developer those funds to build the project, and TCI will then make the bond payments. JRA Executive Director Jason Brookins said the agreement also has language referring to the former Firestone Tires site and the old Barefield Furniture property on the corner of Roach and Pascagoula streets that TCI purchased separate from site of the proposed convention center hotel and multi-use
development. TCI-MS bought the property from private owners for an undisclosed amount in an earlier deal and agreed to place the title in JRA’s name. Once the city crafts a final deal, that agreement may allow for the city to reimburse the developers up to $1.75 million for the property. But Brookins said the reimbursement doesn’t mean the city is handing over cash; instead, it could serve as credit. In 2008, the city loaned $7 million to TCI-MS through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the development of the hotel. In June, the city passed a resolution calling for the TCI-MS to repay $2 million of the loan to the city in January 2011 and repay the remaining loan’s principal by Jan. 1, 2013. Brookins said the city plans to use the vacant buildings to expand the convention center. “We asked the developer to purchase the property—Firestone and Barefield—and place it in the name of JRA,” he said. “That was a precautionary move. If the development didn’t go through, the property would be retained by the city of Jackson.” But the specifics of the agreement won’t be nailed down until JRA has the project’s financing in place. “The city has a very strong desire to see that property made available right now for the future expansion of the convention center hotel. Either the city will own (the property), JRA will own it, or the convention center will own it. Someone other than the developer will own that property in the very near future,” Brookins said. Johnson said that the developers are not beholden to deadlines, but he expected financing decisions to come into place in the near future. Small said in mid-October that TCI has secured GO Zone bonds through the Mississippi Development Authority. “We have submitted proper paperwork with MDA,” Small said. “… The GO Zone bonds have been assured for the project. Now we are just trying to get the paperwork in place so we can sell the bonds.” Comment at www.jfp.ms.
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ministration is responsible for carrying it out, he is committed to seeing it through. Late Jackson Mayor Frank Melton was largely responsible for securing the deal with the Dallas developers. “I didn’t craft the deal, but I’m the guy who has to make sure we consummate it. We are working hard to do that,” Johnson said. “We are working with the developer and potential financing sources. Not only is it a business deal with a lot of resources at stake, we have a lot of skin in the game. We truly believe that a convention center hotel will be WARD SCHAEFER
t’s been a little over a month since the Jackson Redevelopment Authority passed a resolution to issue up to $95 million in bonds for the proposed convention center hotel complex, but the project’s developers are still trying to get a financial structure in place for the development to move forward. In 2007, JRA, a quasi-government entity that manages and develops city property, sold four blocks of property along Pascagoula Street to TCI-MS, a limited-liability company formed by Mark Small, president of MJS Realty based in Dallas, Texas, with close ties to controversial businessman Gene Phillips. When finished, Capital City Center, a $200 million multi-use development, will include a 19-story Crowne Plaza Hotel with 300 guest rooms, a 175-room Staybridge Suites Hotel, a 1,500-car garage, skywalks linking the hotels with the convention complex and a 200-unit “luxury” apartment building. The non-binding resolution nails down a specific amount that the city will allocate in bonds, but until the developers finds a financial entity to buy the bonds, JRA and the city will not enter into a final agreement. Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. told the Jackson Free Press during a Sept. 29 editorial board meeting that the resolution authorizes the developer’s application for Gulf Opportunity Zone financing and gives support for financial backing from bankers. He said the city has already provided a generous amount of financial resources for the development and wouldn’t speculate whether the city would provide additional support if the developers were unable to secure financing. “I think that the city has made a very significant and firm expression of its willingness to participate in this deal, and to go beyond that at this point is not only speculation but is maybe a little challenging,” Johnson said. “We will have to wait and see what happens if the developer isn’t able to secure financing.” Johnson added that this wouldn’t have been his ideal project, but now that his ad-
opining, grousing & pontificating
Free the Scott Sisters
ov. Haley Barbour should pardon Jamie and Gladys Scott—and not because we believe beyond a shadow of doubt that they are innocent. He should pardon them because they have done the time for the crime they are accused of committing. They have served 16 years for (perhaps) putting even younger people up to a robbery. If they did it, it was a horrible act, and they should have served time for it. Now, though, they have—and they have served more time than many Mississippians who have committed much worse crimes: people who actually brandished weapons, people who injured or killed or raped other people, people who bilked families out of livelihoods or helped indict their political enemies while keeping their buddies and their kids out of jail for real crimes. (Hint on the latter: Read Curtis Wilkie’s new book, “The Fall of the House of Zeus.”) The case is especially horrifying because they are women—mothers—who clearly made bad decisions, but now are expected to spend the rest of their lives in prison without parole for those choices. It is not a standard we apply to everyone—and even less so if the criminal has white skin. The Scott Sisters personify our two-tiered system of justice. They are black and powerless, so they go to jail. White men such as those who brutally killed wives and girlfriends and then got lucky enough to buddy up to the governor in his mansion end up going home early. Gov. Barbour did not put the Scott Sisters in jail, and it’s not his fault they are still there; it was Gov. Ronnie Musgrove who refused to pardon them. But the governor does have the opportunity to make this right. And his decisions to let the woman-killers go in 2008—as the JFP’s Ronni Mott and intern Sophie McNeil revealed to the world then—make it imperative that he now apply some sort of fairness and basic humanity to this case. There is no indication that the Scott Sisters are dangerous, or that they will commit more crimes. In fact, one of them is very sick. Sadly, they represent other powerless prisoners rail-roaded through our criminal-justice system—many of whom are innocent of heinous charges. (Remember Cedric Willis?) Tragically, too many people turn their heads from these cases, whether they involve innocence or over-zealous prosecution. And the vast majority of such cases that linger without justice involve African Americans. If our state has changed as much as people like to say it has, we all need to carry the banner of fair and equitable punishment. If we don’t, all of our claims of change will mean nothing. Actions are what matter, not platitudes.
The Chitterling Holiday Season
November 3 - 9, 2010
arnest “Monday Night Football Head” Walker: “Attention, Pork-N-Piggly shoppers: Now that the elections are over, it’s time to enjoy the holiday seasons. As chief executive officer of Pork-N-Piggly supermarkets, I am happy to announce the start of the Chitterling (Chit-lin) Holiday Season. This is the time of the year when businesses create a festive and cheerful atmosphere to influence consumers to spend their hard-earned dollars. “During the Chitterling Holiday Season, Pork-N-Piggly’s meat, poultry and deli departments are ready to meet—no pun intended—your needs by providing every meat product from the rooter to the tooter. “What would the Chitterling Holiday Season be like without Chief Crazy Brother’s dazzling and dramatic display of Native American Art and his controversial one-man performances of ‘Weeping and Wailing on the Trail of Tears’ and ‘All We Got Out of the Real Estate Deal Were Hotels, Casinos and Reservations.’ “Speaking of art, Brother Sylvester, our resident ‘Christmas Missing Toe’ artist, will exhibit his new holiday-season artwork. Be sure to view and/or purchase copies of his most recent and controversial holiday paintings titled: ‘All I Want for Christmas is a Job’ and ‘Portrait of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party Guy’. “Pork-N-Piggly supermarkets are happy to have Nurse Tootie McBride and her Licensed Nurse Practitioner squad administering flu shots and weekly high blood pressure and diabetes screenings during Chitterling Holiday Season. “On behalf of my dedicated Pork-N-Piggly supermarket staff, I wish the financially challenged community a healthy and economical Chitterling Holiday Season.”
YOUR TURN by Ronni Mott
hen I was given the opportunity to go to Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity this past weekend, I jumped at the chance. I went to school in the Washington, D.C., area, and cut my activist teeth on Vietnam War demonstrations in the nation’s capital and Equal Rights Amendment marches down Constitution Avenue to the west side of the U.S. Capitol building. The sheer numbers that greeted us at the rally have somewhat restored my faith in America. By 10:30 a.m. the area between 3rd and 7th streets was filled. The metro ride into the city was so jammed that the conductor had to empty one of the trains I rode on because he couldn’t close the doors, his frustration evident when he announced, “I told you and told you. Now they’re taking the train out of service.” The event, put together by Comedy Central, had an air of a good party. There was a slate of awesome musicians and comedians, and the day had few serious political moments. The rally was, after all, a direct response to the pseudo-political Rally to Restore Honor just a couple months ago. Glenn Beck is no more a serious political analyst than Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, though you wouldn’t know it by the way some people talk. During the course of the day, I met a diverse group of people—in age, ethnicity and religion— from all over the United States. Folks came from Alaska and California, Maine and Florida, Wisconsin and Texas, and all points in between. I didn’t see one sign calling tea partiers or Republicans Nazis or Communists, although I saw a few allusions to their general lack of spelling skills. And though the space allotted was nowhere close to a comfortable fit for 220,000, people weren’t pushing, shoving or rude—at least not
to me. In discussions with fellow travelers, one thing was clear: What could have been a mess wasn’t. And we talked a lot about fear. Ultimately, we recognized that fear is not a useful, productive emotion. Should we be fearful of the times we live in? Perhaps. But maybe we would all do much better to avoid the “fight or flight” syndrome fear precipitates and learn exactly what’s going on to find a better path. No one makes rational decisions when they’re afraid, and that’s exactly what some conservative leaders count on. Toward the end of the rally, Stewart became serious: “This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear—they are, and we do. “But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus, and not be enemies. But unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. “The country’s 24-hour, political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, ... illuminating issues heretofore unseen. Or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the dangerous, unexpected flaming ants epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.” I’m writing this on Election Day, not knowing what the outcome will be. Chances are there will be far fewer Democrats in the U.S. Congress come January. Let’s hope we remember those words as we pull together to emerge from these hard times.
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Don’t Tread on Her
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hatever political ideology the Rand Paul supporters who attacked Lauren Valle last week might have claimed to have, they became fascists the moment they held her down and stomped her in the head. The term “fascism” comes from the fasces, the intimidating bundle of white birch rods that, attached to an axe in the ancient Roman republic, functioned as a symbol that brought to mind the state’s power to execute those who opposed it. While there are many civil liberties that can be violated and many human rights that can be suppressed, true fascism represents the violent suppression of dissent, the idea that the proper response to an idea that challenges authority is either violence or the threat of violence. As a progressive activist in Mississippi who knows his history, I live under the shadow of the fasces. I’ve never been beaten or shot for my beliefs, but I can read in the history books about Medgar Evers, the Freedom Summer murders, the Chaney-Goodman-Schwerner slayings and the literally hundreds of other lynchings that defined the white supremacist response to the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Or I can look more recently at the murder of the Arkansas Democratic Party chairman, the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shootings or the murder of pro-choice physician George Tiller. Or I can look at the threats that activists still face today—one friend in a feminist T-shirt was cornered in Lowe’s and told to be careful wearing slogans like that because she’ll get shot for it around here, or the beating death of a young gay man under suspicious circumstances outside a fast-food place last year, or the relentless racist backlash against the NAACP and other civil rights groups. In practice, on the two occasions I have had a yard sign advocating a black candidate in our front yard, either the sign or another part of our property was vandalized. These kinds of threats are typically delivered by white men with guns, directed at people who are not white men with guns. I want to say this is a cultural, bipartisan, non-political issue, but I don’t really believe that. There’s a large segment of the population that professes to believe that the government is getting too big and powerful, but thinks torturing people or imprisoning them for life without trial is OK if somebody with a government title says it is. They don’t want women to be able to take birth control pills because it might kill microscopic blastocysts, but see no reason to save the lives of
the 45,000 Americans who die every year due to lack of health insurance. They want to teach creationism and the Ten Commandments in public schools, but think giving kids in poor neighborhoods access to a useful education is just throwing money away. They want to cut food stamps for families because we need to watch out for the deficit, then cut taxes for multi-millionaires. They don’t want the government looking at right-wing paramilitary groups that stockpile ammo, but they do want the government raiding low-income Latino households in search of undocumented immigrants. There’s a pattern to all these apparently contradictory policy positions: The tea party is about more freedom and power for the people it represents, and less freedom and power for everybody else—and through its ties with paramilitary and firearm-enthusiast groups, it is implicitly committed to the belief, articulated by Mao Tse-tung, that power flows from the barrel of a gun. In practice, this isn’t really conservatism; it’s selfishness. One of Valle’s assailants wore a button on his shirt depicting the Gadsden flag: a rattlesnake with the caption “Don’t Tread On Me.” This flag, originally used during the American Revolution, was meant to depict the 13 colonies’ oppression under British law. But on the shirt of somebody who’s literally treading on a woman, and whose agenda represents trampling on the interests of women and anyone else who does not fit the narrow demographics of his movement, it sends a different message: “Don’t tread on me; tread on other, more historically oppressed groups of people instead.” Whatever form this “save me, not them” attitude takes—and Maoism and Stalinism represented it as effectively as any right-wing movement ever has—it is always connected to a vision of the world that is rooted in selfishness, scarcity, competition and inevitably, violence. Whatever candidate you vote for in the future, stand for the dignity of the human spirit, the personal freedom of conscience, and the common good. Don’t let the fasces scare you—or seduce you. Reject the politics of the curb-stomp in all of its forms. Stand for something better. Jackson native Tom Head is secretary of the Mississippi ACLU, writes About.com’s Guide to Civil Liberties, and is the author or co-author of 24 nonfiction books, including “Civil Liberties: A Beginner’s Guide” (2009).
In practice, this isn’t really conservatism; it’s selfishness.
CORRECTION: In “The Beauty of Horror,” (Volume 9, Issue 6), we inadvertently switched the names of the actors in the photo caption. Chad King played Dr. Frank-n-Furter in “The Rocky Horror Show,” and Blake Dailey played Brad. The Jackson Free Press apologizes for the error.
Editor in Chief Donna Ladd Publisher Todd Stauffer
Courtesy evelyn rasCo
The Tragic Case of the Scott Sisters
by Ward Schaefer Evelyn Rasco, center, has raised her daughters’ six children and three grandchildren. With only an eighth-grade education, she has lobbied for their release for 16 years.
November 3 - 9, 2010
amie and Gladys Scott arrived at the Mini Mart gas station on Highway 35 in Forest, Miss., sometime between 10:30 and 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve 1993. It was just after Johnny Ray Hayes and Mitchell Duckworth had stopped in to purchase beer and gas after getting off work at McCarty Farms. Hayes and Duckworth said later that they saw the Scott sisters arrive in a blue Oldsmobile. At the Mini Mart, Gladys, then 19 and two years younger than her sister, approached the two men and asked for a ride to their parents’ home in the rural area of Hillsboro, a few miles north of Forest. The sisters say they had run out of gas, some accounts claim. The two men agreed to let Jamie and Gladys ride with them, and the group set off in Hayes’ car. They stopped briefly at Oakdale Apartments near the McCarty Feed Mill, and headed north, taking a narrow country road. At some point during the drive north, 14 Duckworth later claimed, he noticed a blue
Oldsmobile behind them and pointed it out to Hayes. What happened next is a matter of contention: Duckworth and Hayes say that the Scott sisters orchestrated a robbery on that back road and left in a car with their accomplices, three young men. Jamie maintains that Duckworth made unwanted sexual advances toward her. The sisters say that they left Hayes’ car and walked the half-mile to their father’s house. The next day, deputies from the Scott County Sheriff ’s Department arrived at Jamie’s house with a warrant for her and Gladys’ arrest on robbery charges. Ten months later, a Scott County jury found the sisters guilty of armed robbery and sentenced them each to double life sentences. Their alleged co-conspirators, three then-teenagers known as “the Patrick boys,” took plea bargains—confessing to robbing Duckworth and Hayes—and testified against the sisters in return for lesser sentences. The Patrick boys all served no more than three years in jail. For 16 years, the sisters have professed their innocence.
Young Mothers The arrest was a terrifying prospect for the sisters, neither of whom had prior criminal records, according to family members. Jamie and Gladys were both young mothers. Gladys lived with her 6-year-old daughter, Olivia, in the Oakdale Apartments in Forest. Jamie and her three children—Jamicce, 6, Terrence, 3, and Richard, 1—lived in a trailer in Hillsboro. The Scott sisters grew up in Hillsboro, a seven-mile drive from the comparatively big town of Forest. According to their mother Evelyn Rasco, now 64, they were “high-spirited girls,” who loved to attend baseball games and fish fries in the country. When the sisters were younger, Rasco would occasionally take them fishing. Having grown up in Chicago, Rasco never grew tired of fishing, but her daughters preferred the social side and would complain about mosquitoes. On the first and third Sunday of every month, Jamie and Gladys sang with their mother in the Sylvester United Methodist Church choir. Of the two, Jamie was the quieter one, a hard worker always willing to put
in extra hours for additional pay. She had undergone a tubal ligation six weeks before her arrest and was due to return to her job at a nearby chicken-processing plant after Christmas. Gladys was more fun-loving, Rasco says. “Gladys was more of the type to drive somebody’s car—high-spirited and have a good time,” Rasco said. “Anyone that would let her drive, she would drive.” Neither girl had finished high school, both having dropped out to make money and care for their children. Jamie worked on the production line at a nearby chickenprocessing plant, while Gladys worked at Hardee’s. In a 2002 affidavit, Jamie Scott said that the encounter with Hayes and Duckworth actually took place a day earlier than was stated in the sisters’ indictment and trial. On Dec. 23, she had run out of gas for the heater in her trailer. After taking her children to her parents’ house, Jamie and Gladys went to the Mini Mart to buy some items for the children. There, Jamie’s car failed to start, and Gladys approached Hayes and Duckworth to ask for a ride
“(T)hey said if I didn’t participate with them, they would send me to Parchman and make me out to be a female,” Howard told Alexander on cross-examination. Alexander asked him if he meant that the sheriff ’s deputies had implied that he would be raped at Parchman. “Yes, sir,” Howard said. Despite signing the statement Dec. 30, 1993, Howard remained in jail for 10 months until the Scott sisters’ trial. Masterminding a Hold-Up? Gregory Patrick also testified that the sisters had planned the robbery. He claimed that Chris handed Gladys the shotgun
Jamie Scott, pictured here in an undated family photo, was 23 when she received a life sentence. She’s now 38 and suffering from kidney failure. the Mini Mart, Jamie and Gladys asked the Patrick boys to follow Hayes’ car. At the Oakdale Apartments, they said the same thing. At The Cow Pasture, they gave the full plan, Howard said. Both Howard and Gregory testified as part of plea bargains. In return for testifying against the Scott sisters, the Scott County DA’s office allowed them to plead guilty to strong-armed robbery for sentences of eight years. In trial testimony, Howard said that he had no lawyer present when he signed the statement handed him by the Sheriff ’s Department. They were not his words; in fact, he hadn’t even read it. Marvin Williams and another deputy, Jerry McNeece, had told him that he would be released the next morning if he cooperated, he said.
while he searched Hayes’ car. Gregory’s testimony introduced another wrinkle in the prosecution’s story, however. When Gladys stopped Johnny Ray Hayes’ car outside Hillsboro, the Patrick boys could see some kind of activity in the backseat, where Jamie and Mitchell Duckworth were sitting. “Jamie and the guy in the back was like fighting, or whatever, struggling,” Gregory said during direct examination from Turner. “We didn’t know what was going on, and they stopped the car.” Gregory said that he and his cousins got out of the car to talk to Hayes and Duckworth about the commotion. In his closing argument, Alexander honed in on Gregory’s description and suggested that Duckworth was getting “friend-
lier in the backseat than Jamie Scott wanted him to.” Alexander also noted a number of discrepancies between the statements that prosecution witnesses gave the sheriff’s department and their testimony at trial. Hayes did not tell the sheriff’s department that he saw the sisters arrive at the Mini Mart in a blue Oldsmobile, Alexander pointed out. Nor did his statement mention that he saw Gladys and Jamie get back in the car with his assailants. Moreover, Alexander argued, why did Duckworth and Hayes not ask the sisters about the blue car following them, if it was the same one they arrived in? The jury, composed of seven white and five black members, returned a verdict shortly thereafter, finding Jamie and Gladys guilty of two counts of armed robbery each. State law allows juries to find a life sentence for armed robbery, and the Scott sisters’ jury did so. They sent the young women to prison for the rest of their lives. Gladys, pregnant at the time, would give birth to her second child shackled to a hospital bed. Jamie and Gladys are now in their 16th year of incarceration in the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Rankin County. Prosecutors never provided an exact amount of money that the robbery allegedly netted. Even testimony by the alleged victims leaves the matter vague. Hayes testified that he had cashed two paychecks and was carrying “about two hundred something dollars” in his wallet. Duckworth told the court that he “didn’t have much money in (his) wallet. Really, nothing, probably.” Howard Patrick testified that his portion of the robbery’s take was between $9 and $11. The Sisters’ Version The sisters appealed their convictions. Alexander began work on the appeal, but in February 1996, the Mississippi Supreme Court suspended him from practicing law for six months for providing inadequate representation. A tribunal of the Mississippi Bar later extended that suspension to two years, and Alexander was subsequently permanently disbarred. Alexander referred the sisters to Jackson attorney (and current Jackson City Councilman) Chokwe Lumumba. Coincidentally, Lumumba would later have his own run-in with the sisters’ trial judge, Marcus Gordon. A 2001 spat with the judge in Gordon’s Leake County courtroom nearly led to Lumumba being disbarred. When he took over the Scott sisters’ appeal in 1996, Lumumba was limited to arguing that there had been legal errors in Jamie and Gladys’ original trial. The Court of Appeals denied their appeal Dec. 17, 1996. In 1998, Lumumba contacted Chris Patrick, the only one of the Patrick boys to not testify during the Scott’s trial. In a signed affidavit, Chris maintained that the two young women had nothing to do with SCOTT SISTERS, see page 16
Robbers’ Plea Bargain The Scott sisters hired two attorneys, Firnist Alexander Jr. and Gail Shaw-Pierson, to represent them in Scott County Circuit Court. On Oct. 3, 1994, they appeared before longtime Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon, known for presiding over the 2006 trial and conviction of former Klansman Edgar Ray Killen in Neshoba County. The trial transcript offers only a piecemeal glimpse of the alleged crime. The sisters did not testify in their own defense, and Alexander and Pierson did not offer a complete, competing version of the night of the robbery. Both Duckworth and Hayes testified for the prosecution, saying that they had seen Jamie and Gladys arrive at the Mini Mart in the same blue Oldsmobile that later followed them and carried their assailants. The two men, who are cousins, also testified that they saw the Scott sisters leave the robbery scene in the Oldsmobile. Neither man saw the sisters hold a weapon during the robbery. In Duckworth’s and Hayes’ version of the incident, the group stopped at The Cow Pasture, a club in Hillsboro, after Jamie and Gladys asked to go to the bathroom. Outside the club, the two women approached the occupants of the blue Oldsmobile. Returning to the car, Gladys asked to drive, and Hayes consented. When Jamie began to complain of feeling sick, Hayes asked Gladys to pull onto the shoulder, where the blue Oldsmobile stopped behind them. The sisters got out, and then, according to court testimony, a man pointed a shotgun through the passenger’s-side window and ordered Hayes and Duckworth out of the car and onto the ground. Hayes and Duckworth testified later that their wallets were stolen, along with anywhere from $11 to $200. After taking statements from Hayes and Duckworth, Scott County sheriff’s deputy Marvin Williams returned to the scene and found Hayes’ wallet, with cards but no cash. On cross-examination by Alexander, though, both men admitted to having purchased beer at the Mini Mart. Duckworth, who had three previous DUI arrests on his record, claimed that neither opened their beers or began drinking until after they
reached Hillsboro, when Gladys started driving. Hayes acknowledged that he opened a 24-ounce Budweiser and drank about half of it. The linchpin in the prosecution’s case was testimony by Howard and Gregory Patrick. Howard, then 14, took the stand first. He told Turner that he had arrived at the Mini Mart with his brother, Chris, his cousin, Gregory, and the Scott sisters, who were friends of theirs. He testified that Gladys conceived of the robbery and told the Patrick boys to follow Hayes’ car until Jamie feigned sickness. The sisters gave him and his cousins instructions three times, Howard said. At
Courtesy evelyn rasCo
back to Hillsboro. The two men helped push Jamie’s car a short distance to the Oakdale Apartments, and the group set off for Hillsboro in Hayes’ car. In her affidavit, Jamie claimed that Duckworth began touching her as they rode in the backseat. Still nauseous from her surgery, she asked him to stop and then told Gladys to pull over. They stopped near The Cow Pasture, a nightclub, where the sisters asked another group of men for a ride but were told they would have to wait. Jamie and Gladys set off again with Hayes and Duckworth. When Duckworth repeated his advances, Jamie began screaming and asked Gladys to stop. As the sisters walked home, they saw another car approach Hayes’ vehicle, Jamie claimed.
SCOTT SISTERS, from page 15
After handling the Scott sistersâ€™ appeals until 2000, Chokwe Lumumba rejoined their case this year. He spearheaded a Sept. 15 rally for their freedom at the state Capitol.
November 3 - 9, 2010
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found a wallet containing $60 and some cards belonging to Mitchell Duckworth, Shepard said. â€œ(Deputy) Marvin (Murls) said, looking directly at me, â€˜If this gets back to Hillsboro â€Ś you are going to ride Buddyâ€™s truck.â€™ This meant he was going to send me to Parchman,â€? Shepard said. Despite the new evidence, this second petition was unsuccessful, too. The Scott sisters had exhausted their options in court. Lumumba then turned to then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. In 2000, he sent a petition for pardon to Musgroveâ€™s office. The petition included the new evidence in the Chris Patrick, Lofton and Shepard affidavits, along with the sistersâ€™ earlier challenges to evidence in their original trial. The request also including a new line of argument: Why should the sisters serve double life sentences when their alleged co-conspirators, the Patricks, served only two to three years of their eight-year sentences? â€œ(T)he question becomes whether these two women should have been sentenced to such harsh punishments for crimes that they clearly did not commit,â€? Lumumba wrote. Musgrove denied the pardon request. A Motherâ€™s Determination The denied pardon request was a setback, but only a brief one for the Scott sistersâ€™ mother, Evelyn Rasco. Rasco did not attend the trial; she stayed at home in Hillsboro with her children while her husband, James â€œHawkâ€?
Rasco, dealt with the sistersâ€™ attorneys. In 2000, after the pardon request failed, she left Hillsboro, in part to separate from James Rasco, who died in 2003. â€œI just wanted to leave,â€? Rasco said. â€œI was having a lot of personal problems. I didnâ€™t feel safe there, and I wasnâ€™t accomplishing anything there, as far as helping Jamie and Gladys in the state of Mississippi. I felt (that) if I went a little further, I could get help for them.â€? Rasco moved to Pensacola, Fla., where her son Willie, who has served in the Army courteSy MiSSiSSippi departMent of correctionS
the robbery; they did not profit from it, nor were they even aware of the plans, he said. â€œPrior to the trial of Gladys and Jamie Scott, Deputy Marvin Williams of the Scott County Sheriff (sic) Department told me and my brother Howard in my presence that we would serve life sentences in Parchman Prison if we did not agree to testify against Gladys and Jamie Scott, and if we did not agree to testify that both women took part in planning for and setting up the robbery of Duckworth and Hayes,â€? Chris Patrick stated in the affidavit. With that new evidence, Lumumba filed a petition for post-conviction relief with the state Supreme Court. He also drew on two other affidavits from Lisa Lofton and Willie Shepard. Both affidavits, taken in the summer of 1996, cast doubt on the Scottsâ€™ guilt. Lofton, who was in the Scott County jail in 1994 along with the Patricks, said that she often spoke to Howard Patrick through his cell window while outdoors on a smoke break. Howard told her that there had been no robbery and that nobody knew what happened to Hayesâ€™ wallet. â€œHoward said he was sure that they didnâ€™t have anything to do with it. Howard said he felt bad about Jamie and Gladys receiving two life sentences because they really didnâ€™t have anything to do with what happened,â€? Lofton said in her affidavit. Willie Shepard was a prison trusty at the Scott County jail in 1994. A few days after the Christmas Eve incident, two sheriffâ€™s deputies took Shepard and other trusties to The Cow Pasture to search for evidence. Another trusty, Melvin Gilbert,
Gladys Scott was 20 when she received two life sentences for armed robbery. SCOTT SISTERS, see page 19
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Jamie (right) has been granted permission to visit her family for three funerals. The Department of Corrections has denied her request for medical release, however. said. â€œNo, it didnâ€™t work that way at all.â€? â€˜Sisters I Never Hadâ€™ Around the end of 2006, Lockhart and Rasco changed their strategy. Jamie had always insisted that publicity and public outcry were essential to getting the sistersâ€™ release. Because mainstream media had ignored her letters, Lockhart took the case to the Internet. She started a page on the (then-free) social-networking site ning.com, which allows users to establish networks around specific shared interests. Lockhart estimates that she joined nearly 200 different ning networks. She also pitched users on blogtalkradio.com, a free platform for hosting podcasts and talk-radio style call-in shows. Guest posts on Web magazines like BlackCommentator.com followed. From individual bloggers, the sistersâ€™ story spread to more established alternative media: black newspapers like The Jackson Advocate and the San Francisco Bay View; Rip Daniels, a radio host whose shows broadcast in Jackson, on the Gulf Coast and in Birmingham, Ala.; and the Nation of Islamâ€™s newspaper, The Final Call. More recently, even bigger media personalities have publicized the case: James Ridgeway, a blogger for Mother Jones magazine; the Huffington Post; and recently, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, who blasted Gov. Haley Barbour for being willing to pardon a string of woman-killers (as the Jackson Free Press first investigated and reported in 2008) but not the Scott Sisters. The prosecutor in the sistersâ€™ case, Ken Turner, has since been quoted in USA Today and other papers as saying that while he believes the sisters are guilty, he feels that some relief for their situation is â€œappropriate.â€? On a â€œFree the Scott Sistersâ€? blog, set up in January 2009 by another activist, Rasco posted calls for letter-writing camSCOTT SISTERS, see page 20
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