SCOTUS hears Curtis Flowers case, a clear timeline of events

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A Mississippi death row inmate hopes the US Supreme Court will play a pivotal role in his case. Curtis Flowers was tried six times for murder. His attorney says race was a factor during his trial.

In 1986 the Supreme Court ruled those challenges cannot be made on the basis of race.

WJTV 12’s Margaret-Ann Carter spoke with local experts to get a clear timeline of events and what they believe will come next.

In 1996 Curtis Flowers was charged with killing four people inside a furniture store in Winona, Ms. It was a heinous crime that shocked the state, but the sequence of events that would take place over the next 22 years would be just as shocking.

Since 1996 Flowers has maintained his innocence.

Mississippi College of Law professor, Matt Steffey walked us through the timeline of events.

Flowers’ first two trials resulted in convictions, but were later reversed on appeal by the Mississippi Supreme Court, by what Steffey calls egregious prosecutorial misconduct, “Referring To evidence that wasn’t in the record, referring to a suggestion that there was proof of a witness was lying when there wasn’t.”

The third trial resulted in a conviction but was reversed for racial bias during jury selection.

“The prosecutor used all of their strikes or challenges to remove all of the African American prospective jurors,” Steffey elaborated.

Trials four and five resulted in mistrials, and the sixth trial is the one on appeal before the US Supreme Court now.

“Building off the prior issues the prosecutor allowed one African American to be seated on the jury and excluded the rest, and the question is whether there was enough evidence that this was because of the race of the jurors… Mississippi looked at that and very narrowly upheld the conviction,” he added.

Steffey explained that on Wednesday the state argued the first five trials shouldn’t be considered, and the focus should be on the most recent trial, “The supreme court seem to recognize that that is impossible you can’t look at the 6th in a series of 6 and pretend the first 5 don’t influence it.”

Longtime investigative reporter, Jerry Mitchell, says if there is a seventh trial, the prosecution will have an uphill battle.

Mitchell has since left the Clarion Ledger and helped co-found the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. However he still works as an investigative reporter and continues to pay close attention to this case.

“There’s a real a possibility the US Supreme Court is going to order a retrial in this case and if they do the prosecution has to start all over again, and given all the attention and some of problems the “In the Dark” podcast and some others have pointed, the defense have pointed out, there could be some real issues and problems for the seventh trial,” Mitchell explained.

Steffey says we may not know what the US Supreme Court decides to do until late June. He says it’s highly unlikely Flowers would except a plea deal as he has maintained his innocence for more than two decades.

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