A Mississippi trial judge has released Curtis Flowers on $250,000 bail, while prosecutors decide whether to attempt to try him a seventh time for a quadruple murder he has long maintained he did not commit. Flowers (pictured right, with defense co-counsel Henderson Hill) was freed on December 16, 2019, after an anonymous donor posted his bond. He had spent the last 23 years in jail, most of it on death row.

In July 1996, four employees of a white-owned furniture store in Winona, Mississippi were murdered. Fifth Circuit Court District Attorney Doug Evans tried Flowers for the murder of one of the victims in October 1997. The all-white jury sentenced Flowers — who is African American — to death. While Flowers’ appeal of his conviction in the first trial was pending, Evans tried him a second time in March 1999 for the murder of a second victim. Just before that trial, Flowers’ parents’ house burned down. Shortly afterwards, his mother was told of a threat made by a white resident that, “If they let that n——- go, another house is going to burn.” This time, a jury of 11 white jurors and one black juror convicted Flowers and sentenced him to death.

Citing prosecutorial misconduct, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned both of Flowers’ convictions, reversing his first conviction in December 2000 and his second in 2003. Evans proceeded to try Flowers a third time in February 2004, again with a jury composed of 11 white jurors and one black juror. Flowers was again convicted and sentenced to death. The Mississippi Supreme Court then overturned his conviction a third time, this time citing Evans’ discriminatory use of jury strikes against African Americans.

Jurors deadlocked in Flowers’ fourth and fifth trials in November 2007 and September 2008, split along racial lines. Evans personally prosecuted both trials. The seven white jurors in the fourth trial and the nine white jurors in the fifth trial voted for death. The five black jurors in the fourth trial and three black jurors in the fifth trial voted for life. Only one black juror served on the sixth jury in 2010 — again prosecuted by Evans — and Flowers was sentenced to death a fourth time in that trial.

While it was working its way through the appeals process, the Flowers case became the subject of an American Public Media podcast, APM Reports’ In the Dark. The podcast uncovered new evidence questioning Flowers’ guilt, including evidence pointing to another suspect and a taped admission from jailhouse informant Odell Hallmon — the state’s star witness who had testified that Flowers had confessed to the murders. In a portion of the podcast that Flowers’ current lawyer Rob McDuff played at the bail hearing, Hallman said: “He ain’t never tell me that. That was a lie. … Everything was all make-believe on my part.”

APM also conducted a study of prosecutors’ exercise of discretionary jury strikes in 225 trials between 1992 and 2017 during Evans’ tenure as Fifth Circuit Court District Attorney. The data from more than 6,700 jurors called for jury service in the circuit court showed that Evans’ prosecutors excluded African Americans from jury service at nearly 4½ times the rate at which they struck white jurors.

On June 21, 2019, a 7-2 majority of the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Flowers’ conviction, again for Evans’ racially discriminatory selection practices. Evans’ “relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of black individuals,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote, “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.”

In November 2019, two civil rights organizations filed a class action lawsuit against Evans in federal court seeking an injunction to end to what they described as his office’s “policy, custom, and usage of racially discriminatory jury selection.” Flowers’ current trial lawyers moved to disqualify Evans from further participation in the case and to bar a seventh trial altogether. Evans’ office has not filed a response to the defense motions and Evans did not appear at the bail hearing.

Following Flowers’ release, McDuff, of the Mississippi Center for Justice, said the defense would “continue to pursue justice in this long and costly case …. At the beginning of the new year, we will move forward with our efforts to obtain a dismissal of the charges …. [T]here is no need to continue wasting taxpayer money on the misguided prosecution,” he said.


Parker Yesko, Curtis Flowers to be released on bail, APM Reports, December 16, 2019; Eliott C. McLaughlin and Tina Burnside, Mississippi judge grants Curtis Flowers bail after six tri­als end in mis­tri­al or over­turned con­vic­tions, CNN, December 16, 2019; Alissa Zhu, Curtis Flowers freed on bond for the first time in more than two decades, six tri­als, Mississippi Clarion Ledger, December 16, 2019; Rick Rojas, After 6 Murder Trials and 23 Years, Curtis Flowers Is Granted Bail, New York Times, December 16, 2019. Photograph by Hunter Hart for APM Reports, cour­tesy of APM Reports.