Curtis Flowers, the Mississippi man tried six times for the murders of four people in 1996, left prison on bail Monday after a judge granted him conditional release for the first time in 23 years.
“He’s extremely happy to be out,” Rob McDuff, Flowers’s attorney, told The Washington Post. “I think he had a sense that this was going to work out this time around.”
The bond was set at $250,000, and an anonymous donor paid 10% of the fee. Flowers will be required to wear an ankle monitor while he is out on release.
Flowers’s case was featured on American Public Media’s groundbreaking “In the Dark” podcast, which examined the district attorney’s use of peremptory strikes to remove many potential Black jurors from cases.
Flowers has been brought before a jury six times in the deaths of four people at a furniture store in Winona, Mississippi, in 1996. All-white juries convicted Flowers in the first three trials, but each of the rulings were overturned by the state Supreme Court. Juries failed to reach a verdict in the fourth and fifth trials, and the sixth resulted in a guilty verdict and Flowers was sentenced to death.
His attorneys appealed the final ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned that as well in June. Flowers’s attorneys argued at the time that the white district attorney, Doug Evans, had excluded potential Black jurors on the basis of race during the 2010 trial. The court agreed.
“In the six trials combined, the State struck 41 of the 42 black prospective jurors it could have struck,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the decision. “At the sixth trial, the State struck five of six. At the sixth trial, moreover, the State engaged in dramatically disparate questioning of black and white prospective jurors. And it engaged in disparate treatment of black and white prospective jurors.”
Flowers is now facing a seventh trial, although prosecutors have not yet decided whether they will pursue it. He has remained in jail because the initial murder indictment by a grand jury is still in place.
His legal team has filed a motion to dismiss the charges, although prosecutors have not yet responded to the filing.
“It’s been rough,” Flowers said Monday after he was released from jail, according to The Associated Press. “Taking it one day at a time, keeping God first — that’s how I got through it.”
“I’m so excited right now, I can’t even think straight,” he later said.
McDuff urged the state to end its prosecution efforts on Monday, calling the ongoing trials “misguided” and plagued by racial bias.
“Given the evidence of his innocence that continues to surface as time goes by, as well as his excellent prison conduct and the fact that he has no criminal record, bail was required by the law under the unusual circumstances of this case,” McDuff said in a statement to NPR on Monday. “This has been a long and costly process, and there is no need to continue wasting taxpayer money on this misguided prosecution that has been plagued by misconduct and racial discrimination.”
During the bail hearing on Monday, Judge Joseph Loper admonished Evans, the district attorney, for failing to appear after spending decades on the case.
“I want to caution the prosecution that if it continues its dilatory conduct, and/or if it continues to ignore orders issued by this court, the State of Mississippi will reap the whirlwind,” Loper said in a statement obtained by The Clarion-Ledger.