For more than two decades, Curtis Flowers maintained his innocence as he faced trial after trial in the 1996 killing of four people at a furniture store in a small town in Mississippi. On Friday, state Circuit Judge Joseph Loper approved a motion from prosecutors to drop the charges.
“Today, I am finally free from the injustice that left me locked in a box for nearly 23 years,” Flowers said after the ruling.
Prosecutor Doug Evans tried Flowers, an African American, six times for the same murder charges, always ending in reversed convictions or hung juries. Flowers’ attorneys said prosecutors discriminated against African American jurors during the trials’ jury selection. In 2018, the true-crime podcast In the Dark reported that a critical witness who said Flowers confessed to the crime in jail recanted his testimony. In March 2019, attorneys argued the case a second time before the U.S. Supreme Court, and three months later, the justices found in Flowers’ favor in a 7-2 decision.
“The state wanted to try Flowers before a jury with as few black jurors as possible, and ideally before an all-white jury,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the majority opinion.
Flowers remained in prison under the original indictment, which was still active, until December 2019, when a judge released him on bond. Evans recused himself from the proceedings in January. The Mississippi attorney general’s office said a lack of clear, incriminating evidence against Flowers, combined with other possible suspects, meant it did not have a case.
“This prosecution was flawed from the beginning and was tainted throughout by racial discrimination,” Rob McDuff, one of Flowers’ attorneys, told The New York Times. “It should never have occurred and lasted far too long, but we are glad it is finally over.” —Kyle Ziemnick