11:50am

Thu December 30, 2010
The Two-Way

Barbour Was Moving On Sisters' Case Before Controversial Comments

The news from Mississippi that Republican Gov. Haley Barbour has suspended the life sentences of two sisters convicted in 1994 for their roles in an armed robbery that netted $11 has naturally led to questions from reporters about whether the decision would have been made if Barbour hadn't gotten himself into controversy two weeks ago with comments that at first blush seemed to praise a 1960s-era supremacist group.

The sisters, Jamie and Gladys Scott, are African-American and their cause has been taken up by civil rights activists in recent years.

For its part, the NAACP is praising Barbour's decision. And on CNN moments ago, NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous was asked whether he thinks Barbour's decision was accelerated by the comments controversy.

"We don't know" for sure, he said. "There certainly has been a lot of conjecture" about a connection.

But, "the reality is that we've been going back and forth with [Barbour's] office" about the sisters' case "for a very long time. ... And we were anticipating this [decision] weeks ago."

Barbour, Jealous said, "has show interest for a long time" in freeing the Scott sisters.

Jamie Scott, 38, needs regular dialysis. Gladys, 35, has offered to give her sister a kidney -- and their release is conditioned on her going through tests to determine whether that's possible, and surgery to do it if it is. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.