Three weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 2010 conviction of Curtis Flowers, who has been tried six times for a 1996 quadruple murder in Mississippi. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the seven-justice majority, noted “the extraordinary facts of this case.” Over the course of those six trials, he 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,” in violation of the Constitution.
Among those extraordinary facts:
- The same prosecutor, District Attorney Doug Evans, tried all six cases;
- In all six trials, he excluded black jurors (41 of 42);
- In the first four trials, held between 1997 and 2007, he used all 36 of his peremptory challenges to strike black jurors from serving;
- In his fifth trial in 2008, there were three African-Americans on the jury, which ended in a mistrial when the jury deadlocked;
- Four of Flowers’ convictions were overturned, the first three because of prosecutorial misconduct; two ended in mistrials.
Flowers’ attorney, Sheri Lynn Johnson, issued a statement following the Court’s ruling, pointing out that, “It is also important to recognize that the conviction the Supreme Court has now overturned was a product, not only of racial discrimination in jury selection, but also of a wide array of other forms of prosecutorial misconduct, including: the use of grossly unreliable forensic evidence; the presentation of admittedly false jailhouse informant testimony procured through secret promises of leniency; the suppression of powerful evidence undercutting the claims of key prosecution witnesses; and the brazen misrepresentation of critical facts in the prosecutor’s arguments to the jury.”
And, Johnson, pointed out, “That Mr. Flowers has already endured six trials and more than two decades on death row is a travesty. A seventh trial would be unprecedented, and completely unwarranted given both the flimsiness of the evidence against him and the long trail of misconduct that has kept him wrongfully incarcerated all these years. We hope that the State of Mississippi will finally disavow Doug Evans’ misconduct, decline to pursue yet another trial, and set Mr. Flowers free.”
Prosecutor Doug Evans however, is undeterred. Three days after the Supreme Court overturned Flowers’ conviction, he told the Grenada Star he will try Flowers again.
If he does, he will have a formidable opponent. The Mississippi Center for Justice’s Impact Litigation Project Director Rob McDuff told the Jackson Free Press he will represent Flowers if Evans tries him again. “Through Rob McDuff, MCJ can contribute deep experience in both criminal and civil rights law to this case with the hope that our legal system finally will treat Curtis Flowers equally.” MCJ President Reilly Morse told the paper.
The 48-year-old Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death in 2010 for the 1996 murder of four people found shot to death in a furniture store in Winona, Mississippi. He has maintained his innocence since his arrest.
Photo courtesy Washington Post