Curtis Flowers is now 51 years old. He spent almost half of his life to date in prison after conviction for killing four people at a Winona, Mississippi furniture store. He was employed by the store for less than a week.
At the time of his arrest in 1997, he had no criminal record. There was no indication in his history that Flowers, a gospel singer, would commit such a heinous crime. Two years after his release, he is filing a lawsuit against the district attorney who tried him six times. At various trials, he was sentenced to death.
According to his attorneys, Flowers wants accountability for the time wrongfully spent behind bars. The lawsuit alleges that racial discrimination tainted the prosecution, as did repeated prosecutorial misconduct.
The lawsuit names Montgomery County District Attorney Doug Evans and three investigators who worked with him –John Johnson, Wayne Miller, and Jack Matthews – but does not name the county as a defendant.
Released Since Black Jurors Excluded From Trials
After spending years on Death Row, Flowers was released in December 2019 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Evans had excluded Black jurors from the trials. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing the majority opinion, stated that by pursuing a “relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of Black individuals,” Mississippi wanted to try Flowers before an all-white jury.
In 2020, Flowers sued Mississippi for wrongful imprisonment. Earlier this year, Mississippi Circuit Judge George Mitchell ordered the state to compensate Flowers. The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office did not oppose the judgment, and Flowers received a $500,000 payment. That was the maximum amount permitted by law.
No Plausible Motive
The lawsuit states that Flowers had no plausible motive for the crime, which occurred during a “spree” of armed robberies and killings in banks and stores in the county and surrounding areas between 1995-1997. Eight days before the Tardy Furniture shootings, someone broke into the furniture store at night via the roof. They tried to crack the safe and then left through a side door. The perpetrators took the side door key with them.
The lawsuit notes that the murders bore the mark of “a precision shooter with criminal experience.” All of the victims, ranging in age from 59 to 16, were shot in the head. The murderers left with cash from the same safe someone had tried to rob just over a week before.
Evans repeatedly claimed there were no suspects other than Flowers. However, several alternative suspects existed, including those who did have a violent, criminal history. One suspect owned the same type of gun the prosecution claimed was the murder weapon. The potential suspects include Flowers’ cousin, a career criminal. He was arrested earlier in a similar rooftop entrance robbery. Evans failed to investigate any of them in depth.
Not only did nothing in Flowers’ history show a propensity for criminal behavior, but during his almost quarter-century in prison, he was a model prisoner. A former Mississippi Department of Corrections’ deputy commissioner called Flowers’ record one of the best jail and prison records he had ever reviewed.
Unprecedented Six Capital Murder Trials
The six capital murder trials were unprecedented in the annals of the U.S. legal system. The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the convictions and death sentences in Flowers’ first three trials for prosecutorial misconduct. The fourth and fifth trials ended in hung juries, but Evans went forward with a sixth trial. Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death, but the Supreme Court overturned his conviction.
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