The state of Mississippi tried Curtis Flowers for murder six times. He was convicted in four trials, while another two ended in mistrials. Yet each of the convictions was overturned. In 2010, after his sixth trial, Flowers was given the death penalty.
In June of 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed his final conviction. The reason his conviction was overturned was that the white prosecutor, District Attorney Doug Evans, had engaged in an unconstitutional pattern of excluding Black jurors from his trials, violating his constitutional rights. Flowers is Black and the trials took place in a majority-Black county, but virtually no Black jurors were seated in any of the six trials. The same DA tried his case each time.
Flowers had been accused of shooting four people to death at a furniture store in 1996.
Podcast investigation uncovers recanted testimony, alternate suspect
Flowers’ case was featured by the American Public Media podcast, “In the Dark.” Reporters for the podcast recorded a major witness in the case entirely recanting his testimony. Odell Hallmon had claimed that Flowers admitted to the murders in a jailhouse confession. He told the podcast that this claim was “a bunch of fantasies, a bunch of lying.”
Jailhouse informants are widely criticized as being almost inherently unreliable. They are usually offered favorable treatment in their own cases if they are willing to inform on other defendants.
Hallmon’s claim that Flowers had confessed was the most significant evidence in the case against Flowers. Hallmon was the only witness claiming to offer direct evidence of Flowers’ guilt.
In addition to uncovering Hallmon’s recanted testimony, the podcast also found evidence that another man might be guilty of the murders.
“This prosecution was flawed from the beginning and was tainted throughout by racial discrimination,” said one of Flowers’ defense lawyers.
After his Supreme Court victory, Flowers was taken off of death row, but the threat of a seventh trial loomed over him. A new prosecutor was finally appointed to review his case, instead of returning the case to DA Doug Evans. Now, the prosecution has finally admitted that it does not have sufficient evidence to convict him. The state of Mississippi has declined to prosecute him further.
Flowers is finally a free man. He stated: “Today, I am finally free from the injustice that left me locked in a box for nearly twenty-three years…. 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.”