A black man in the state of Mississippi has been tried six times for the same crime.
The trials have resulted in two mistrials – when the jury couldn’t agree – and four convictions. Every one of his convictions has been overturned by a higher court – most recently the Supreme Court of the United States.
Curtis Flowers, the man in question, has never left prison for over 20 years, despite his convictions being overturned. Just before the Supreme Court decision, the hosts of the podcast In The Dark spent over a year living in Mississippi studying his case and recreating the evidence against him.
*Spoiler alert* – In The Dark found the case against him to be incredibly weak. Every point of evidence against Flowers was unraveled by them as they studied the case, including multiple witnesses against him recanting. Additionally, local people were shocked to find out they were on police record as giving statements against Flowers, when they had told In The Dark they had either told the police the opposite, or had never said what their statement contained. In other words, the police made up their statements to strengthen the case against Flowers.
So, with such weak evidence, how did the police win four trials against Flowers?
In The Dark found that in the first four trials of Flowers, the local prosecutor, Doug Evans, used all of his chances to strike black potential jurors from the trials. In all six trials, Evans asked black potential jurors an average of 15 questions, while he asked white potential jurors an average of 4.5 questions, which the courts found he did as an attempt to find a reason, other than race, to strike black potential jurors from the jury. Flowers’ two mistrials were the result of his most diverse jury pools. However, those jury pools were only diverse because the prosecutor, Evans, had already used up all of his chances to strike potential jurors.
Following the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Flowers’ conviction a fourth time, Evans made the decision on whether to try the case again. If anyone is wondering, none of this is double jeopardy. Double jeopardy states a person may not be tried a second time for a crime they have been acquitted of, but Curtis Flowers has never been acquitted.
In the mean time, Curtis Flowers remains in prison, where he has been since 1996, because the decision to release him on bail lies with Evans or a local judge who is Facebook friends with Evans. However, in a small ray of hope Flowers’ new attorney is fighting this with a little known law in Mississippi that may grant bail to people who have had two or more mistrials, just like Flowers’ scenario, the Clarion Ledger reported.
As the whole country, and Flowers, await a decision, listen to In The Dark’s comprehensive coverage of the Curtis Flowers case here.
Madeleine Sheehan is an in-house Social Politics Correspondent and Sociologist based in San Fransisco, USA.
All opinions expressed within this content are owned by the author alone.