American Public Media, producers of an “In the Dark” podcast about the murder trials of Curtis Giovanni Flowers, is reporting that another key witness against Flowers has recanted her testimony tying him to the 1996 killings of four people in Winona.
Clemmie Fleming, who grew up with Flowers, testified in all six murder trials that she saw Flowers on July 16, 1996, running from the Tardy Furniture store, where the bodies of four people, all shot to death, were found.
APM now reports that Fleming won’t tell the same story if called to testify at a seventh trial. She told “In the Dark” last week that she has never known what day she saw Flowers running.
“The whole time I’ve been telling them, I don’t remember the day,” APM quoted Fleming as saying. “I’ve been confused on the day from the beginning. I just didn’t know how to say it. I was scared I was going to go to jail.”
Fleming would be the second major witness to recant since the sixth trial. Jailhouse snitch Odell Hallmon has also told APM that his testimony was concocted in hopes of having his sentence reduced by prosecutors.
On June 21, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Flowers’ sixth trial on grounds that Flowers had been racially discriminated against by Fifth Circuit Court District Attorney Doug Evans during jury selection. Evans has been the prosecutor for all six of Flowers’ trials but has yet to announce if he will try Flowers again.
Flowers has been on death row in the state penitentiary at Parchman for nearly 20 years.
The bodies of store owner Bertha Tardy and three of her workers were found by a retired employee on the morning of July 16, 1996. All had been shot dead.
During all six trials, Fleming had testified that a man named Roy Harris had driven her to the store to pay an overdue bill but that she had not gone inside because she was pregnant and felt ill. Near the store, Fleming had testified, she saw Flowers about 30 yards away, running toward his home.
APM reported Harris had testified at Flowers’ first trial, confirming Fleming’s account, but recanted and claimed he’d been pressured by prosecutors.
Fleming became a witness after she heard Flowers was a suspect in the murders and told people she had once seen him running near the furniture store. Someone told police. When they visited her, Fleming told APM, one investigator threatened to send her to jail and have her baby taken away if she refused to testify, APM reported.
“I always did try to tell them I don’t remember what day,” Fleming said. “I tried to tell him, but he wouldn’t listen. He wasn’t hearing that.”
Fleming’s sister, Mary Ella, has testified in several of Flowers’ trials that Fleming was wrong about the date and that the sisters were together the morning of the murders after deciding not to make the trip to the furniture store. Mary Ella Fleming told APM that she thought Clemmie Fleming had testified against Flowers in hopes of getting some of the reward money.
“I have to live with this every day,” Clemmie Fleming told APM. “And I talk to God. I pray for Curtis. I just say, ‘God, please don’t let them kill him.’ I’m sorry I testified.”
•Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The original version of this article misstated that if Curtis Flowers is prosecuted again, it would be his sixth trial on the capital murder charges. APM also asked for clarifications that Fleming would not tell the same story if called to testify for a seventh time, and that her sister told APM she thought Fleming had testified in hopes of getting reward money.