MADISON — District Attorney Doug Evans has become the Hamilton Burger of Mississippi jurisprudence. Burger was the district attorney who lost every week on the original “Perry Mason” television show.
I don’t know whether Curtis Giovanni Flowers killed four people at a store in Winona in 1996. But I know the U.S. Supreme Court did the right thing last week when it overturned his 2010 conviction in the slayings.
The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that during Flowers’ sixth trial for murder, Evans wrongly excluded potential African American jurors from the case.
Flowers, who is black, was charged with murdering four employees of Tardy Furniture Store, where he worked before being fired.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the majority, said Evans — who is white — showed racial bias in selecting jurors.
“The numbers speak loudly,” Kavanaugh said. “In the six trials combined, the state employed its peremptory challenges to strike 41 of 42 black prospective jurors … including five of the six black prospective jurors in the sixth trial. We cannot ignore that history.”
Evans has spent 22 years trying to convict Flowers. And he has consistently violated Flowers’ right to a fair trial. He hasn’t learned anything in those years because Evans keeps doing the same thing.
Isn’t that the definition of insanity?
Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch voted against overturning the verdict. Thomas, the high court’s only black justice, wrote in his dissent that the reversal was “manifestly incorrect,” adding that Flowers “presented no evidence whatsoever of purposeful race discrimination.”
Now that’s manifestly incorrect. Perhaps Thomas and Gorsuch need to reread the case file. Or simply do the math
In his first three trials, Flowers was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned those convictions because of prosecutorial misconduct and Evans’ attempts to keep blacks off of the juries. Trials No. 4 and 5, the only two with more than one black on the jury, ended in hung juries when jurors were unable to reach a verdict.
Flowers was tried for murder for a sixth time — which may be unprecedented in American history — in 2010. He was again found guilty and received the death penalty. He was convicted of murdering Beth Tardy, 59; Carmen Rigby, 45; Robert Golden, 42; and Derrick “Bo Bo” Stewart, 16.
Kavanaugh said Flowers’ latest conviction was overturned because of:
• Evans’ history of excluding black potential jurors.
• Strikes against five of six black potential jurors.
• The state’s “dramatically disparate questioning” of black and white potential jurors. Evans asked prospective black jurors who were struck an average of 29 questions each. Potential white jurors who were selected were asked an average of one question each,
• Evans said he excluded black potential jurors for reasons including that they knew witnesses or members of the Flowers family. Meanwhile, white jurors who were selected had similar connections to the case.
Mississippi has yet to decide whether Flowers will be tried for a seventh time. But if he does go on trial again, the state can’t allow Evans to be the prosecutor again.
After six strikes in the Flowers case, Evans should be out.
• Charles Corder is a longtime editor and writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.