Doug Evans, a Mississippi prosecutor even as the convictions were repeatedly overturned, is headed to a runoff for a District 5 Mississippi Circuit Court judge seat.
Evans, who is white, prosecuted Curtis Flowers, 52, a Black man, six times for murder in Winona, Miss., beginning in 1997, and is facing a lawsuit from Flowers, who accused him of “malicious prosecution, abuse of process and false imprisonment.” Flowers had spent 23 years in prison by the time he left in 2019. In 2020, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch dropped the capital-murder charge against Flowers, who had maintained that he is innocent.
After the election Tuesday night, Evans pulled 26.9% of the vote to clinch second place behind City of Winona Municipal Judge Alan D. Lancaster, who received 34% of the vote. The two will compete in a runoff on Nov. 29, because no candidate won over 50% of the vote in the seven-county district, which includes areas of Attala, Carroll, Choctaw, Grenada, Montgomery, Webster and Winston counties. The other candidates who are now out of the race are Doug S. Cosby (14.6%), Zachary A. Madison (7.5%) and Kasey Burney Young (17%).
In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a guilty verdict in Flowers’ sixth trial. “In sum, the State’s pattern of striking black prospective jurors persisted from Flowers’ first trial through Flowers’ sixth trial,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the court in the 7-2 opinion. “In the six trials combined, the State struck 41 of the 42 black prospective jurors it could have struck.”
“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,” he added. “The State’s actions in the first four trials necessarily inform our assessment of the State’s intent going into Flowers’ sixth trial. We cannot ignore that history. We cannot take that history out of the case.”
If Evans wins the seat, he will hear cases coming from the same district where he is accused of disproportionately striking Black jurors in Flowers’ trials.
Former Grenada mayoral candidate Charles Latham told the Mississippi Free Press in June that he “vehemently opposed” Evans “holding any judicial position” because of his prosecutorial records against Flowers.
“It appears in my mind and based on the reporting and evidence that I’ve seen that he did everything he could to convict an innocent man—whether he was innocent or not—to take that racist approach to eliminating Black jurors, which I think was the wrong thing to do,” Latham said at the time, five months before the election.
Regarding Tuesday’s election, he said, “I gave Mr. Lancaster my full support.”
In an order on Sept. 26, 2022, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr, stayed proceedings in the case that Flowers brought against Evans. “At the request of the parties, the court has determined that this matter be stayed until May 1, 2023,” the judge wrote.