A Black man in Mississippi has been tried in court six times for a murder and after his case has gone as far as the highest court in the nation, it is now potentially headed to a new trial in a local court — back where it started.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the murder conviction and death sentence of Curtis Flowers, 49, citing racial bias by prosecutor Doug Evans during jury selection, which left Black jurors out of the case. In turn, the Mississippi Supreme Court, following the high court’s order, vacated the sentence and ordered a new trial, which now goes back to Montgomery County Justice Court to determine if he will be tried a seventh time, the Mississippi Clarion Ledger reports.
The case details
According to court records, Flowers was accused of killing the owner of Winona, Miss., furniture store owner Bertha Tardy, 59, and employees Carmen Rigby, 45, Robert Golden, 42, and Derrick Stewart, 16, on July 16, 1996. Flowers had been an employee at the store who had been fired 13 days earlier. Eyewitnesses said they saw Flowers leaving the store, but no gun was ever found. However bullet casings found at the scene matched that of a gun that was reported stolen. Still, there was no direct evidence linking Flowers and the gun.
Flowers was convicted by a majority-white jury and sentenced to death. But in 2016, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to lower courts for review because of allegations of racial bias in jury selection. The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the conviction, but in June of 2018, a Writ of Certiorari, or request for judicial review, was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court and it was granted in November 2018.
Last June, the high court, led by Justice Brett Kavanaugh criticized the tendency of the prosecutor to deliberately strike Black jurors from participating in the trial.
“The state’s pattern of striking black prospective jurors persisted from Flowers’ first trial through Flowers’ sixth trial,” Kavanaugh wrote. The state’s relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of black individuals strongly suggests that the state wanted to try Flowers before a jury with as few black jurors as possible, and ideally before an all-white jury.”
Flowers’ attorneys stated Evans made sure black jurors would not be included in the trial, with which the U.S. Supreme Court agreed.
In each of the six previous trials, Flowers was found guilty, but lawyers and crime podcasts point to flaws in the conviction, which received opposition from Evans and family of the victims who believe in his guilt.
Prosecutorial misconduct has resulted in the case being thrown out five times, but a 5-4 decision by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2010 maintained the conviction and sentence.
Flowers will be taken away from death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. He will now be housed at the Montgomery County Jail, without bond. A motion for bond can be submitted, which would then be placed in the hands of a judge. Evans has not disclosed if he will seek a seventh trial.