Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch dropped all charges today against Curtis Flowers, who spent almost 23 years in prison for 1996 murders he said he did not commit.
“Today, I am finally free from the injustice that left me locked in a box for nearly 23 years,” Flowers said in a statement today through his attorney, Rob McDuff.
Montgomery County District Attorney Doug Evans, who is white, tried Flowers six times for the shooting deaths of four people at a furniture store in Winona in July 1996. Investigators never found the weapon that prosecutors alleged Flowers used to commit the murders.
“The case against Curtis Flowers never made sense,” said McDuff. “He was 26 years old with no criminal record and nothing in his history to suggest he would commit a crime like this. As time went by, even more evidence emerged to corroborate his innocence. This prosecution was flawed from the beginning and was tainted throughout by racial discrimination. It should never have occurred and lasted far too long, but we are glad it is finally over.”
Two trials resulted in mistrials. In the other four trials, jurors convicted Flowers of murder and sentenced him to death.
Federal courts overturned Flowers’ convictions due to claims of bias in the makeup of the jury.
“In sum, the State’s pattern of striking black prospective jurors persisted from Flowers’ first trial through Flowers’ sixth trial,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a 2019 opinion that overturned Flowers’ most recent conviction. “At the sixth trial, moreover, the State engaged in dramatically disparate questioning of black and white prospective jurors.”
The State tried to block all 36 prospective Black jurors in the first four trials.
After the Supreme Court overturned the conviction last year, Flowers went home on bail in December, but Evans said at the time that he was considering trying him a seventh time. The prosecutor later withdrew from the case, and after Fitch assumed her position as Mississippi’s attorney general in January, her office began reviewing the case. The saga ended today.
Fitch “did the right thing by conducting a thorough review of the evidence, including the significant evidence of innocence,” the Mississippi Innocence Project’s Tucker Carrington said in a statement today. The Innocence Project has represented Flowers since 2015.
The Mississippi Center for Justice called the outcome “a monumental victory” in a statement today.
“Over the past year, the Mississippi Center for Justice represented Curtis Flowers and helped to bring about a favorable conclusion of this tragic case,” Mississippi Center for Justice President Vangela M. Wade said in a statement today. “Today the burden of further injustice has been lifted from Mr. Flowers, but fair treatment in our criminal justice system should never require the extraordinary resources behind this long-delayed outcome.”
She said it is “a perfect time” for Mississippi to “commit to a deeper fight against racism in our criminal justice system.”
“As a former prosecutor, I am acutely aware of the power wielded by the District Attorney in charging decisions, bail, plea bargaining, trial, and sentencing,” Wade said. “Mississippi must reform our criminal justice system from the bottom up, starting with rooting out racial bias in prosecutorial discretion.”
In his statement, Flowers said there are more men like him who are still incarcerated who should be free.
“I want to say that I believe there are other men, men that I met on the row, whose cases deserve to be heard and considered,” he said. “I’ve been asked if I ever thought this day would come. I have been blessed with a family that never gave up on me and with them by my side, I knew it would. With their love, staying in the word of God, with the determination of my legal team, and the countless letters and words from my supporters, the day I’ve prayed for is here at last.”