After 6 Trials, Mississippi Drops All Murder Charges Against Curtis Flowers
A defense lawyer for Flowers, who spent 23 years in prison, calls the case “flawed from the beginning.”
Curtis Flowers flanked by his sisters Charita Baskin, left, and Priscilla Ward, right, as he exits the Winston-Choctaw Regional Correctional Facility in Louisville, Miss., December 16, 2019.[Photo: Associated Press/Rogelio V. Solis]
Curtis Flowers, the Mississippi man who was imprisoned for decades and tried six times for the same crime, is free now that prosecutors have decided to drop all charges against him.
“It is in the interest of justice that the State will not seek an unprecedented seventh trial of Mr. Flowers,” the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office said in a motion to dismiss obtained by APM Reports.
In a statement shared with CNN, Flowers said he’s “finally free from the injustice” that left him “locked in a box for nearly twenty-three years.”
“I've been asked if I ever thought this day would come,” he said. “I have been blessed with a family that never gave up on me and with them by my side, I knew it would.”
Flowers, 50, was accused of murdering four people at the Tardy Furniture store in Winona, Mississippi, in 1996. District Attorney Doug Evans claimed Flowers, a former employee of the business, stole a pistol and shot dead owner Beth Tardy because she docked his pay and fired him for damaging merchandise. Flowers, Evans alleged over multiple trials, then killed three other employees so they could not testify against him.
The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the first three of Flowers’ convictions as a result of prosecutorial misconduct. His following two trials ended with hung juries. Flowers was found guilty after a sixth trial, in 2010, and sentenced to death row.
In March 2019, Flowers’ attorneys successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that Mississippi D.A. Evans, 68, had a record of using preemptive strikes — which require no reason to exclude a juror but cannot be used to dismiss them based on their race — to keep Blacks off juries. Each of Flowers’ four trials that resulted in convictions, the lawyers pointed out, had at most one Black juror on the panel.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed and reversed Flowers 2010 conviction in June 2019, ruling Evans’ use of preemptive strikes was a “relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of Black individuals,” according to the Washington Post.
The decision sent Flowers’ case back to the Montgomery County court and could have resulted in a seventh trial.
In December 2019, a judge released Flowers on bail. D.A. Evans voluntarily recused himself from the case, leaving Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch to decide whether or not to again pursue charges against Flowers.
According to APM Reports, much of the largely circumstantial evidence against Flowers, who has always maintained his innocence in the quadruple murder, had deteriorated over the course of time or been proven to be seriously flawed.
“As the evidence stands today, there's no key prosecution witness that incriminates Mr. Flowers who is alive and available and has not had multiple, conflicting statements in the record,” the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office noted in the motion to dismiss.
Rob McDuff said in a statement obtained by CNN that the case against his client, Flowers, “never made sense.”
“He was 26 years old with no criminal record and nothing in his history to suggest he would commit a crime like this. As time went by, even more evidence emerged to corroborate his innocence,” McDuff explained.
“This prosecution was flawed from the beginning and was tainted throughout by racial discrimination. It should never have occurred and lasted far too long, but we are glad it is finally over,” McDuff added.
Flowers’ loved ones are now trying to move on following decades of setbacks.
“We have prayed for this day and are looking forward to the future knowing that our brother will not be going back to prison,” family said in a statement. “We know our Mom is looking down and our only wish is that she could have been here to welcome Curtis home.”