Doug Evans, the prosecutor who tried Curtis Flowers six times for murder since 1997, lost his bid for a District 5 Mississippi Circuit Court judge seat to Winona Municipal Court Judge Alan D. Lancaster in a runoff election Tuesday.
In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Flowers’ sixth conviction, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh citing a “relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of black individuals” that “strongly suggests the State wanted as few black jurors as possible.” Flowers is Black.
“In the six trials combined, the State struck 41 of the 42 black prospective jurors it could have struck,” Kavanaugh wrote in a 7-2 majority opinion. APM Reports’ “In The Dark” podcast had helped draw renewed attention to the case a year earlier.
After that ruling, Evans said Flowers would “have to be retried” a seventh time, but later recused himself from the case. In September 2020, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced that the State was dropping the case against Flowers. By that time, Flowers had spent 23 years in prison for the 1997 murders of four people in a Winona furniture store, but he maintained his innocence.
“Today I am finally free from the injustice that left me locked in a box for nearly 23 years,” Flowers, who was 50 at the time, said in a September 2020 statement.
If Evans had won the District 5 election, he would have heard cases in the same jurisdiction where he disproportionately struck Black jurors during Flowers’ trials. With almost 90% of the vote counted by Wednesday, Lancaster led with about 70% of the vote. During the campaign, Lancaster promised in social media posts that he would “be fair,” “impartial,” “follow the law,” and “treat everyone with respect and dignity.”
“I am truly humbled by the overwhelming support I received during the campaign,” Lancaster said in a Facebook post on Tuesday night. “I want to thank everyone for not only their votes, but the kind words, encouragement and prayers. I look forward to being your new Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit District.”
Flowers is currently suing Evans, accusing him of “malicious prosecution, abuse of process and false imprisonment.” In September, a federal judge stayed proceedings in that civil case until May 2023.