Four months after Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced the state would not prosecute Curtis Flowers for capital murder for a seventh time, the Legislature is considering an apology to the man who spent more than 23 years on death row.
State Sen. Robert Jackson and others drafted a resolution to recognize the state’s role in keeping Flowers imprisoned.
“While an apology from the state will not erase the crimes committed and the pain of the families involved, nor will it restore the time of life lost by Curtis Flowers due to his incarceration, it may inspire the citizens of this state and the nation as to the confidence in our legal system,” the resolution says.
Click here to read the entire resolution.
The resolution is currently under review by the Senate Rules Committee.
Flowers, now 50, is a Black man who was tried six times for the same crime by a white prosecutor. He was freed in September after Fitch said the state would not try Flowers a seventh time.
The case drew national attention in 2019 as it went before the U.S. Supreme Court after it was the subject of “In The Dark,” a popular investigative podcast.
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If passed, the resolution as written will say in part: “We do hereby issue an apology on behalf of the state of Mississippi for the role of the state in the prosecution of Curtis Flowers of Winona, Mississippi, who was tried an unprecedented six times in a murder case and spent 23 years in prison and his final conviction was appealed to the United States Supreme Court which overturned the verdict on the basis of racial discrimination after which charges were finally dismissed, and express to Curtis Flowers and his family our deepest sorrow for this unjust experience.”
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Flowers was accused of killing four people at a furniture store in Winona in 1996. Bertha Tardy, 59, and three employees, 45-year-old Carmen Rigby, 42-year-old Robert Golden and 16-year-old Derrick Stewart were each shot in the head execution-style.
He was sentenced to death and was held on death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman for more than 20 years.
‘I just never stopped fighting’:Curtis Flowers a free man after 23 years
Flowers has always maintained his innocence.
“Today I am finally free from the injustice that left me locked in a box for nearly 23 years,” Flowers said in a statement following his release. Flowers could not be reached for comment for this story.
Attempts to reach Jackson and Flowers’ attorney Rob McDuff for comment were unsuccessful.
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Despite being the only person charged for the crime, experts have said they believe more than one person was involved in the crime, including pathologist Dr. Michael Baden.
After examining autopsy reports and crime scene photographs, Baden said, the evidence suggested one person maintained control while another person carried out the slayings.
“Usually if somebody starts shooting,” he said, “others will run.”
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Another expert, private investigator Charlie Saums, said the callousness of the crime indicated the person or persons had killed before. Flowers had no prior criminal history.
Flowers’ case went through an unprecedented number of trials, the most in modern U.S. history.
The prosecutor, Fifth Circuit District Attorney Doug Evans, tried Flowers multiple times as he failed to convince the juries of Flowers’ guilt and failed to make convictions stick. Two trials ended in hung juries and four convictions were overturned because higher courts found evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.
In June 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Flowers’ most recent conviction, after finding Evans deliberately worked to prevent prospective Black jurors from serving during jury selection.
In November 2019, Evans was sued in federal court by the Attala County branch of the NAACP and others for his alleged discriminatory acts. The lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice and is currently going through the appeals process.
Former Clarion Ledger reporter Alissa Zhu contributed to this story.