Mississippi to pay Curtis Flowers $500K for 20-year wrongful imprisonment
'I believe it should have been more, but I feel good,' Flowers remarked
Curtis Flowers has been awarded $500,000 from the state of Mississippi after being wrongfully imprisoned for more than 20 years.
theGrio reported charges against Flowers were dropped in September 2020 after he had already spent 23 years in federal prison. Flowers was initially released from custody in December 2019. He was accused of being responsible for the 1996 shooting deaths of Bertha Tardy, Carmen Rigby, Robert Golden, and Bobo Stewart at the Tardy Furniture store in Winona, Miss.
“Today, I am finally free from the injustice that left me locked in a box for nearly 23 years,” Flowers said in a statement. “I’ve been asked if I ever thought this day would come… With a family that never gave up on me and with them by my side, I knew it would.”
In 2010, Flowers was sentenced to death row, but the United States Supreme Court intervened after an appeal was filed. Last year, the High Court sent the case back to Montgomery County for the prospect of a seventh trial.
The justices also ruled that District Attorney Doug Evans violated the constitution by keeping Black people from the jury and cited that over the various trials that Flowers had, 61 of the 72 jurors were white.
The Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch took over the case after Evans recused himself amid criticisms that he was biased and wasting taxpayer money. Evans is currently being sued by the NAACP in a federal class-action lawsuit for racial bias.
AMP Reports reported the $500,000 award is the maximum allowed by Mississippi state law. If granted, a person can lawfully receive $50,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment, up to a limit of 10 years. The state will pay out $50,000 a year for the next 10 years directly to Flowers, although he served over 20.
Mississippi Circuit Judge George Mitchell and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office did not oppose. According to the report, his first annual payment of $50,000 has already been appropriated and is awaiting final actions from the state senate.
“I feel good,” Flowers shared on Tuesday, according to the report. “I believe it should have been more, but I feel good.”
Since he has been released, Flowers has enjoyed time with his fiancée, whom he met while imprisoned, and her three children. He hopes to use the money to purchase land and a home for his family, according to AMP Reports.
“I’m living every day to the fullest now and hoping that everything works out,” Flowers told the news outlet. “I’m happy. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m doing everything I can to make sure it’s a good one.”
According to the New York Times, Evans remains the top prosecutor for seven Mississippi counties. Flowers shared with the outlet he believed other inmates of Parchman Farm Prison, where he served his time, were wrongfully accused and sentenced due to Evans’s misconduct.
The Times reported as of February 2021, there have been zero witness accounts or physical evidence that places Flowers at the scene of the crime.
It’s terrible,” Flowers said to the Times.
He continued to share what he believes the consequence should be for prosecutors who have proven misbehavior.
“It sucks to be behind bars,” he said, “and I don’t think he would want to sit back there.”
The Star-Herald reported the families of the victims of the 1996 crime have spoken out against Fitch. According to the report, news of the dropped charges against Flowers was released to media outlets before families were informed. They also shared anger claiming there was a lack of effort to further investigate before deciding to dismiss the indictment.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden informed the Clarion-Ledger his belief that multiple killers were behind the crime. He came to this conclusion after reviewing autopsy reports and crime scene photographs.
Baden suggested one person controlled the victims while another executed the killings. Besides Flowers, there have been no other arrests in the crime.
“Usually if somebody starts shooting,” he said, “others will run.”
This article contains additional reporting by Stephanie Guerilus.
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