Double Jeopardy has long been an established principle in the American legal system however, however, loophole to this principle is the dual sovereignty exception, which allows offenders to be charged for the same crime on both state and federal levels. If, during sentencing, a judge determines that the sentences should be run consecutively and not concurrently, it can mean that the offender is serving time for the same offence twice.

Shawanna Vaughn is the founder of Silent Cry, an organization dedicated to the rights of prisoners and answering silent cries one person, situation and act at a time. The organization frequently sheds light on the mistreatment of prisoners and petitions for the compassionate release of prisoners. 

What follows is Sheron Edwards’ personal account of sentencing and incarceration:

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Image: Silent Cry

My name is Sheron Edwards. In 1999, I was arrested in my hometown Starkville, Mississippi for the following state charges: armed robbery, aggravated assault and grand larceny.

A month later, during the time I was out on bond for those state charges, Captain David Lindley of the Starkville Police Department referred those same exact state charges to the feds requesting that I be arrested for carjacking and use of a firearm.

Yes. You heard it correctly. The same crime, same witnesses, same evidence.

I ended up with two individual 20 year sentences in both jurisdictions. State and federal time. 

What’s even more bizarre, is the fact that from May 13, 1999, through July 13, 2017, I completed the federal 20 years for carjacking with a firearm, only to be sent to the Mississippi Department of Corrections where I am currently serving the other 20 years mandatory. One crime. Two sentences. Unfair? Let’s see?

“On January 1, 1998, state policeman David Lindley” of the Starkville Police Department, “was placed on 6 months probation for wearing his clan robe on duty”. See (The Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi: A History by Michael Newton, 2009).

In 1999, during my Mississippi State University board hearing, to determine the status of my enrollment there, I was given an opportunity to ask Captain David Lindley a question and he angrily refused to answer saying, “I’m not going to answer this person…I’m going to see to it that he spends the rest of his life in the penitentiary”

So, in essence, in 1998, a policeman who happens to be a KKK member in Mississippi, was “placed on probation” for wearing his clan suit to work. In 1999, a year later, the same clansman was allowed to prosecute me, a black man. As he stated during my university hearing, prosecute “this person” that he was going to have “spend the rest of his life in the penitentiary”. The policeman backed his claim by forwarding the state case to the feds.

In addition, the district attorney on my case back then was no other than the infamous District Attorney Forrest Allgood, who was mentioned in the recently trending series the Innocence Files. It was the first two episodes about two men wrongfully convicted of the rape and murders of two little girls in Mississippi. With proof of their innocence, he still refused to admit that he had wrongly convicted both men based on faulty forensic evidence and hearsay.

This is the part where it gets a little more unfair. The victim’s father is a white State court judge in Mississippi. Listen readers, the proof is in the pudding. It was never about the crime committed. It was more about the race, class and status of the person the crime was committed against that caused such a lengthy sentence in my situation. 

The time and era in America is ripe for me to address my issue. Black lives matter should not only address the murders of innocent blacks, but also the legal lynchings of blacks by the justice systems in the US. I have indeed been legally lynched by the system.

In conclusion, please allow me to stress that I am not justifying my actions; neither am I shifting the blame on anyone. I have accepted responsibility for my involvement in the crime. I am remorseful for the crime I committed. I am eagerly telling my story, desperately hoping that true justice is served. I am requesting that both sentences be run together, not consecutively.