Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Mississippi AG decides not to try man seventh time for murder

The Mississippi Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss four murder charges against Curtis Flowers  because it did not have sufficient evidence of Flowers’ guilt, reported Jurist. Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Joseph Loper granted the motion, ending a process that had led to six jury trials of Flowers over more than a decade, and might have precipitated a seventh.

Flowers, a Black man, was accused of the 1996 Tardy Furniture murders. He was first convicted in 1997 before an all-white jury, but the conviction was reversed after the prosecutor unfairly admitted evidence of all four murders when Flowers was only charged with one count of murder. Over the next 13 years, Flowers faced five more trials. Two trials ended with a mistrial when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. Four of the trials ended with a guilty verdict. Each conviction was reversed on appeal.

Flowers’ last trial was in 2010.  It ended with a guilty verdict on all four counts of murder. In 2019 the United States Supreme Court reversed this conviction in a 7-2 decision by Justice Kavanaugh. The Court held that the prosecutor was motivated by racial prejudice when he used the vast majority of his preemptory strikes against prospective Black jurors.

Flowers was released on bond after 23 years in prison after the Supreme Court reversed his conviction. The Montgomery County Circuit Court then asked the Mississippi Attorney General to take over the case and conduct an independent review of the evidence. The Mississippi Attorney General agreed. After its independent review, the Mississippi Attorney General concluded the evidence against Flowers was insufficient. The only witness who directly implicated Flowers was a jailhouse informant. He claimed Flowers confessed to the murders, but later recanted and said he lied about the confession.

On the Attorney General’s petition, the Montgomery County Circuit Court dismissed the charges against Flowers with prejudice. Flowers is now free from threat of prosecution for the Tardy Furniture murders after 24 years. 

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