A black Mississippi man freed after nearly 23 years behind bars filed a lawsuit Friday against the white district attorney who tried him six times for the same 1996 quadruple murder.
Curtis Flowers was released from prison in 2019 after the US Supreme Court overturned the conviction and death sentence from his sixth trial connected to the shooting at a furniture store that left four people dead.
“Curtis Flowers never should have been charged,” his attorney said in a statement Friday.
Flowers is suing Montgomery County District Attorney Doug Evans and three other investigators for what the high court said was an unconstitutional pattern of excluding black jurors in Flowers’ trials.
The suit alleges the prosecutors pressured witnesses “to fabricate claims about seeing Mr. Flowers in particular locations on the day of the murders,” while ignoring other suspects.
“The prosecution was tainted throughout by racial discrimination and repeated misconduct,” Rob McDuff of the Mississippi Center for Justice wrote. “This lawsuit seeks accountability for that misconduct.”
The state of Mississippi was ordered to pay Flowers $500,000 for wrongful imprisonment. The lawsuit does not seek specific damages; compensation would be decided by a jury.
The murder case is now in the hands of Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who said last year the evidence was too weak to put Flowers on trial for the seventh time.
Double jeopardy did not apply in Flowers’ case because three convictions were thrown on appeal out due to prosecutorial mistakes, and two ended in mistrials, meaning the defendant wasn’t technically being retried for the same crime. Instead, he essentially underwent six first trials.
Some family members of the victims have maintained Flowers is guilty. Defense attorneys argue the massacre was the work of a trained killer, not the then-26-year-old who had no criminal record.
The 2018 public radio podcast “In The Dark” interviewed a jailhouse snitch who recanted his testimony that Flowers had confessed to him that he was indeed the killer.
Odell Hallmon told the court “a bunch of fantasies, a bunch of lying,” he said on the program.
With Post wires