Flowers will receive restitution from the state.
The state of Mississippi has been ordered to pay $500,000 to former intimate Curtis Flowers, a Black man who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for the 1996 murder of four people at a furniture store. He spent more than two decades behind bars and will receive $50,000 over the next ten years.
Flowers was originally arrested when he was 26 years old for the fatal shootings of four individuals inside the Tardy Furniture Store in Winona, Mississippi. He had worked at the store two weeks prior to the deaths of shop owner Bertha Tardy, 59, and employees, Robert Golden, 42, Carmen Rigby, 45, and Derrick Stewart, 16, and was ultimately convicted of aggravated murder.
Flowers was sentenced to death in his first trial in 1997 despite a lack of evidence and a motive to commit the crime. In this third trial, he was again convicted and sentenced to death, but the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned his conviction again, ruling District Attorney Doug Evans had “violated Batson when he used all fifteen of his peremptory strikes to remove African-American members of the jury pool.” The jury deadlocked during the fourth and five rounds. At Flowers’ sixth trial, the jury consisted of eleven white jurors and one Black juror. Flowers was sentenced to death.
In 2019, Attorney Sheri Johnson, supporting Flowers, told the Supreme Court justices the “only plausible interpretation of all of the evidence viewed cumulatively is that Doug Evans began jury selection in the sixth trial with an unconstitutional end in mind: to seat as few African American jurors as he could.” Before trying Flowers for a seventh time, Evans recused himself.
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced in 2020 that the state would not move forward with another trial and Flowers was released on bail in September of last year with all charges against him dropped.
“As we have learned more about this case in recent years, it is now widely acknowledged that Curtis Flowers did not commit this crime. He clearly qualified for compensation under the law. It is no surprise that the Attorney General’s office has acknowledged this,” said Flowers’ attorney, Rob McDuff of the Mississippi Center for Justice (COJ). “Five hundred thousand dollars is not nearly enough money. Unfortunately, that’s all that’s allowed.” He added upon his client’s release, “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.”
The state’s COJ said, “We are thrilled that Flowers is a free man and honored to have helped lead the effort to end this shameful miscarriage of justice. But as we celebrate, we must remember that justice came more than two decades late. And we must remember that far too many Americans, particularly people of color, are put behind bars unfairly all across this country. “
Flowers is the fifth individual to be exonerated from Mississippi death row since 1973.