After having been rebuked by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2019 for his pattern of racially biased jury selection in the capital prosecutions of Curtis Flowers and sued in federal court to bar future race-based jury strikes, Mississippi prosecutor Doug Evans has voluntarily recused himself from future involvement in Flowers’ case.

Evans has been the driving force in Flowers’ case for more than 20 years, personally prosecuting Flowers (pictured, right, with defense co-counsel Henderson Hill) six times for a 1996 quadruple murder in Winona, Mississippi. Flowers’ first three convictions and death sentences were overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court as a result of prosecutorial misconduct, with the court twice finding that Evans had unconstitutionally used his discretionary strikes against black jurors on the basis of race. Flowers’ fourth and fifth trials — the only trials in which more than one black juror was empaneled — ended in hung juries. In Flowers’ sixth trial, a jury of 11 white jurors and one black juror convicted him and sentenced him to death.

The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019, focusing on Evans’ pattern of racially discriminatory jury selection. American Public Media Reports’ podcast In the Dark analyzed 26 years of jury strike records and found that Evans’ office had struck black people from juries at nearly 4.5 times the rate it struck white people. Over the course of the five Flowers trials for which data was available, Evans voluntarily accepted only one black juror, striking or attempting to strike every other black juror until he ran out of peremptory strikes. The Court vacated Flowers’ sixth conviction on June 21, 2019 in a 7-2 decision. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the majority, wrote, “Equal justice under law requires a criminal trial free of racial discrimination in the jury selection.” Kavanaugh wrote that Evans’ “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.”

Evans’ recusal motion, filed in the Montgomery County Circuit Court on January 6, 2020, made no mention of the history of prosecutorial misconduct and racial bias in the case. Evans said that he “remain[ed] confident in both the investigation and the jury verdicts” in the case, but had nevertheless concluded that his “continued involvement will prevent the families from obtaining justice and from the defendant being held responsible for his actions. It is for these reasons,” he wrote, “that I voluntarily recuse my office from further involvement.” Evans asked the trial court to appoint the Mississippi Attorney General’s office to prosecute the case.

Flowers’ lawyer Robert McDuff of the Mississippi Center for Justice issued a sharply worded statement in response to Evans’ recusal. “Doug Evans had no business staying on this case,” McDuff said, “and we are pleased he recused himself. We look forward to what we hope will be an impartial review of this case by the new Attorney General of Mississippi. As the trial judge indicated when granting bail, the evidence of innocence has become even more clear since the last trial. There is no reason to continue wasting taxpayer money and putting everyone through a seventh trial. Curtis Flowers is innocent. This misguided prosecution has been plagued from the beginning by misconduct and racial discrimination, and it is time to bring it to an end.”

Flowers was released on bail on December 16, 2019 after spending 23 years in jail, most of that time on death row. Evans had initially hinted that he would try Flowers a seventh time but had not formally announced a decision. That decision will now be made by the Mississippi Attorney General.


Parker Yesko, Evans quits the case, APM Reports, January 6, 2020; Mississippi DA Leaves Murder Case After Multiple Trials, Associated Press, January 6, 2020. Photo by Hunter Hart of APM Reports cour­tesy of APM reports.

Read Evans’ recusal motion. Read the state­ment from Robert McDuff.