Man freed on bond after 22 years still faces legal battle
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man freed on bond after more than 22 years behind bars is spending the holidays with his family and waiting to hear whether a prosecutor will try him a seventh time in a quadruple murder case.
The next steps in Curtis Flowers’ legal saga could take months:
— Flowers’ attorneys will ask a judge to dismiss the 1997 capital murder indictments that he still faces in the 1996 shooting deaths of four people at a furniture store in Winona.
— The district attorney, Doug Evans, could either push forward with a seventh prosecution of Flowers or agree with defense attorneys’ request and ask a judge to dismiss the existing charges.
— Evans could ask the state attorney general’s office to prosecute the case. It’s rare, though, for the attorney general to take on a local case. And, Mississippi will have a new attorney general in January because the current one did not seek a fifth term in this year’s elections.
— Attorneys for both sides could discuss whether Flowers should plead guilty, although that scenario appears unlikely. One of Flowers’ attorneys, Rob McDuff of the Mississippi Center for Justice, said the defense team will file papers in the new year, asking a judge to dismiss all charges.
“If they are not dismissed, we will be ready for a seventh trial, at which we fully believe Curtis Flowers will be found not guilty,” McDuff said Monday after the bond hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Flowers’ 2010 conviction in June of this year, saying prosecutors had shown an unconstitutional pattern of excluding African American jurors in the trials of Flowers, who is black.
Flowers walked out of a jail Monday, accompanied by his attorneys and two of his sisters, soon after a judge set his bond at $250,000. An anonymous donor gave money to cover 10% of the bond amount, which is standard.
Even though his latest conviction was overturned, Flowers had remained jailed because he is still under the 1997 indictments.
Those killed at the Tardy Furniture store in 1996 were owner Bertha Tardy, 59, and three employees: 45-year-old Carmen Rigby, 42-year-old Robert Golden and 16-year-old Derrick “Bobo” Stewart.
Flowers, now 49, was convicted four times — twice for individual killings and twice for the killings of all four people. Each of the convictions was overturned because of mistakes by prosecutors. There were also two mistrials.
An American Public Media podcast, “In the Dark” raised questions about the case last year. During the bond hearing Monday, McDuff played an excerpt from one of the podcast interviews. In it, a witness from a previous trial said he had given false testimony against Flowers to try to cut a better deal for himself as he faced charges in an unrelated case.
The district attorney, Evans, did not immediately respond to a call from The Associated Press on Tuesday about whether he will try Flowers a seventh time. A person who took a message said Evans was out of the office.
Evans did not respond in court papers to defense attorneys’ request that the judge set bond for Flowers, and Evans did not appear in court Monday. Instead, he sent an assistant district attorney who argued against bond. The lack of communication drew a rebuke from Circuit Judge Joseph Loper, who said the prosecution would “reap the whirlwind” if it continued to ignore court orders.