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Amid a backdrop of a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter political movement and calls for social justice reform sweeping the nation, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office submitted a motion Friday to dismiss its case against Curtis Flowers.
Flowers, a 50-year-old black man, was charged for the 1996 murders of four people in Winona, Miss, and has been tried six times for the crime, the Clarion-Ledger reported.
Two trials ended in hung juries and four convictions were overturned because higher courts found evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, according to the paper, which noted that the unprecedented number of trials were the most in modern U.S. history.
Flowers, charged with killing four people at the furniture store he was fired from, has maintained his innocence for more than two decades.
“Today I am finally free from the injustice that left me locked in a box for nearly 23 years,” he said Friday in a statement. “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.”
In the photo below, Flowers is holding an ankle monitor he was allowed to remove on Friday — he had been required to wear it since being released on bail in December.
It's over. All charges against Curtis Flowers have been dropped.
The Mississippi man endured nearly 23 years behind bars, six trials, four death sentences and, most recently, months of house arrest for murders he always maintained that he didn't commit. https://t.co/qAMqu5ER3a
— In the Dark (@InTheDarkAPM) September 4, 2020
Fifth Circuit District Attorney Doug Evans, the white prosecutor who tried Flowers multiple times, “quietly withdrew” in January amid calls from Flowers’ attorneys to have him removed from the case, according to the Clarion-Ledger.
The case then went to Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office for review.
More on her reasoning from the newspaper:
In court filings, the attorney general’s office said all key witnesses that had testified against Flowers in the past had either died or made conflicting statements on the record.
“… The only witness who offered direct evidence of guilt recanted his prior testimony, admitting that he was lying when he said Mr. Flowers made a jailhouse confession to the murders.”
BREAKING: Mississippi attorney general Lynn Fitch has dropped murder charges against Curtis Flowers who is tried six times for murdering four people at a Winona furniture store more than 20 years ago. pic.twitter.com/xK87wX5wna
— Ross Adams (@radamsWAPT) September 4, 2020
Flowers’ most recent conviction was in 2010, and that was overturned by the U.S. Supreme in June 2019, after the high court found that Evans deliberately worked to prevent prospective black jurors from serving during jury selection.
Attorney Henderson Hill, who represents Flowers, cited today’s calls for racial equity as being significant, telling the Ledger that the dismissal “adds one more important proof that 145 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1875, a recalcitrant demagogue will no longer be able to stop the forces of transformation in Mississippi and nationally, calling for racial equity to replace white supremacy as our justice system’s organizing principle.”
Lost in the mix is that on the morning of July 16, 1996, four people were shot in the head execution-style at Tardy Furniture.
The victims were owner Bertha Tardy, 59, and three employees: Carmen Rigby, 45; delivery driver Robert Golden, 42; and 16-year-old Derrick Stewart, who was known as “Bobo,” according to WLBT.
Tardy, Rigby and Golden were all dead at the scene, and Stewart would succumb to his injuries several days later.
Carmen Rigby’s son, Brian, sat through all six trials and he told WLBT early this year that he wants the four victims to be remembered.
“Even though it’s been a long time, these were hard-working people going about their day,” Rigby said. “Four fantastic people lost their lives that day, and four families will forever be affected by it.”
While Finch’s decision pretty much assures that Flowers will not be tried again, as seen below, it does not prove that he is innocent.
It also does little to ensure that justice is served in the death of four human beings.
Flowers’ attorneys described the dismissal with prejudice as similar to an acquittal. “They literally cannot prosecute him again,” Rob McDuff said. “We don’t have to worry about Doug Evans coming back behind the attorney general and charging Curtis again. That can’t happen.”
— In the Dark (@InTheDarkAPM) September 5, 2020
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