June 13, 2024

Charges against Curtis Flowers dropped after 24 years: ‘I am finally free’

Curtis Flowers is feeling “free” after prosecutors in Mississippi dropped murder charges against him that were repeatedly filed by a White prosecutor who also lobbied to keep Black jurors from serving on the case.

Murder charges against Curtis were dropped on Friday in the 1996 shooting deaths of Bertha Tardy, Carmen Rigby, Robert Golden, and Bobo Stewart at the Tardy Furniture store in Winona, Miss, The New York Times reported. Judge Joey Loper granted the motion.

Curtis Flowers Mississippi charges thegrio.com
(Credit: Curtis Flowers/APM )

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Flowers was released from custody last December after 23 years behind bars.

Until Friday’s decision, he was prepared to defend himself in a court of law once again.

“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.”

Over the course of more than two decades, Flowers had been put on trial for the slayings for which he has always maintained his innocence. District Attorney Doug Evans brought him to trial six times with the rulings resulting in mistrials or convictions that were ultimately reversed.

Evans’ zealous pursuit of Flowers made the case the subject of Season 2 of the APM Reports podcast In the Dark.  Their investigation found discrepancies in the evidence against Flowers.  

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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 Evans violated the constitution by keeping Black people from the jury and cited that over the various trials that Flowers had, 61 of the jurors were white out of 72.

“Equal justice under law requires a criminal trial free of racial discrimination in the jury selection process,” Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote for the majority.

Kavanaugh further declared that Evans wanted to put Flowers “ideally before an all-white jury.”

The Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch took over the case after Evans recused himself in January 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.

Fitch did not feel there was sufficient enough evidence to proceed with yet another trial.

“As the evidence stands today, there is no key prosecution witness that incriminates Mr. Flowers who is alive and available and has not had multiple, conflicting statements in the record,” Fitch wrote. “The only witness who offered direct evidence of guilt recanted his prior testimony.”

The decision to drop all charges was greeted by those who felt Flowers had been railroaded by the justice system.

“This is systemic racism. Help to eradicate it. It destroys lives, incarcerates people unjustly, puts profit before people, places barriers on the path out of poverty, etc,” Dr. Bernice King tweeted.

“It is inhumane and evil to continue to argue that racism doesn’t exist.”

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