Curtis Flowers Sues Prosecutor Who Tried Him Six Times

Charges were dropped in 2019 against Mr. Flowers, who spent 23 years in prison after he was accused of killing four people at a Mississippi furniture store.,

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

Curtis Flowers was arrested in 1997 after being accused of killing four people at a furniture store in Mississippi. He spent 23 years in prison until he was released in 2019, and charges against him were dropped the following year.

Now Mr. Flowers is suing the district attorney who prosecuted him six times. His lawyers say he is seeking “accountability” for the time he wrongfully spent in prison.

“Given the absence of any solid evidence against Mr. Flowers, defendants engaged in repeated misconduct to fabricate a case that never should have been brought,” says the suit, which was filed in federal court in Mississippi on Friday. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

The suit names as defendants Doug Evans, the Montgomery County district attorney, and three investigators — John Johnson, Jack Matthews and Wayne Miller — who worked with Mr. Evans. Montgomery County is not named as a defendant.

Mr. Evans did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday. Mr. Johnson, Mr. Matthews and Mr. Miller could not be reached.

In a statement on Friday, Rob McDuff of the Mississippi Center for Justice, a lawyer for Mr. Flowers, 51, said his client “never should have been charged.”

“Curtis Flowers was 26 years old with no criminal record and nothing in his history to suggest he would commit a crime like this,” Mr. McDuff said. “The prosecution was tainted throughout by racial discrimination and repeated misconduct. This lawsuit seeks accountability for that misconduct.”

Mr. Flowers was accused of killing four people in a furniture store where he had worked for three and a half days. His arrest did not come until six months later, in January 1997.

His case drew widespread attention and was chronicled in a season of the podcast series “In the Dark,” which broke down several aspects of the case, including an episode on the gun used in the killings, which was never found.

Three people were found dead inside the Tardy Furniture store in Winona, Miss., on July 16, 1996: Robert Golden, Carmen Rigby and Bertha Tardy. A fourth victim, Derrick Stewart, died from his gunshot wounds at a hospital about a week later, according to the suit.

The murders happened during a “spree of armed robberies and murders in commercial establishments and banks that plagued Montgomery County and nearby counties from 1995 to 1997,” the suit says.

“No plausible motive tied Mr. Flowers to the crimes,” the suit says. “The prosecution’s theory was that Mr. Flowers, a gospel singer with no criminal record, decided to commit a quadruple murder with precision shooting because he was upset over having been let go from a minimum wage job.”

In his most recent trial, Mr. Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death, but his lawyers appealed the conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2019 that the prosecutor, Mr. Evans, had unconstitutionally kept Black people from serving on the jury.

In the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote that “Equal justice under law requires a criminal trial free of racial discrimination in the jury selection process.”

By pursuing a “relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of Black individuals,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote, the state wanted to try Mr. Flowers “ideally before an all-white jury.”

In March, a judge in Mississippi ordered the state to pay Mr. Flowers $500,000, the maximum the law allows, for wrongfully imprisoning him for more than 20 years. The order came after Mississippi had passed a new law in 2009 to provide compensation to people who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for felony crimes.

While in prison, Mr. Flowers missed out on several life events, including the funeral of his mother, the suit says.

Kaitlyn Golden, one of his lawyers, said Mr. Flowers “can never get back the 23 years of his life that he spent in prison.”

“The law allows innocent people to file lawsuits seeking to hold state officials accountable for misconduct leading to wrongful imprisonment,” she said. “With this case, we hope to do just that, and to seek some redress for Curtis Flowers for the horrors he endured over more than two decades behind bars.”

Leave a Reply