The long-running story of Curtis Flowers, along with others involved in the investigation and trials concerning a 1996 quadruple homicide in Winona, was examined in a segment on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday night.
Flowers was tried six times for the deaths of Bertha Tardy, Carmen Rigby, Robert Golden and Derrick “BoBo” Stewart in a shooting at Tardy Furniture. Charges against him were dropped in September after he had spent more than 20 years in prison.
The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned his first three convictions between 2000 and 2007, citing racial discrimination in jury selection. Flowers’ fourth and fifth trials ended in hung juries. During his sixth trial in June 2010, he was convicted of all four homicides, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that conviction in 2019, also citing racial bias in jury selection.
The case received nationwide attention from an American Public Media Reports’ podcast, “In the Dark: Season 2,” that highlighted the many missteps throughout Flowers’ legal battle. The podcast has been downloaded over 42 million times.
Last January, District Attorney Doug Evans, who prosecuted the six trials, recused himself from the case under pressure and handed it over to Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s office, which declined to prosecute Flowers further.
During the nearly 15-minute segment on the popular TV newsmagazine, correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi spoke with Flowers and Evans. She called this a “rare interview,” as Evans does not tend to speak to the press about the case.
When asked why he prosecuted the case multiple times, Evans responded, “Because I knew he was guilty. And the families knew he was guilty. And the families deserve justice.”
Evans also went on to say that race was not at all an issue in the investigation of the case.
“Race has nothing to do with our part of what we do. A lot of times race gets thrown in as an excuse if there is no defense,” he said.
Madeleine Baran, the lead reporter for the podcast, and Samara Freemark, the podcast’s managing producer, also sat down for an interview with Alfonsi to explain how their data collection and journalistic work led to Flowers’ case being brought to the highest court in the nation. They analyzed decades worth of court data that revealed Evans had a history of excluding Black people from juries at a disproportionate rate. According to their findings, during all of Flowers’ trials, 61 of the 72 jurors were white, and those 61 all voted to convict.
In the Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling to throw out Flowers’ last conviction, the justices appeared to be swayed by the research. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that there was a “relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of Black individuals.”
Evans said he found that statement hypocritical, referencing sexual assault allegations Kavanaugh faced during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in 2018.
“I can’t understand that,” Evans said of Kavanagh’s statement. “Basically, what he is doing is accusing me like he was accused, before he was put on the Supreme Court.”
Shortly after his release, Flowers said on the podcast that he still wonders why he was accused of the killings. At that time, he said he had nothing to say to Evans: “Some things you don’t — just don’t need to be said, you know?”
During the “60 Minutes” interview, however, he said: “I believe every case Doug Evans ever handled should be looked into. I truly do. ... Lord knows I would hate to see this happen to someone else.”
•Contact Adam Bakst at 581-7233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter at @AdamBakst_GWCW.