Curtis Flowers, a Black man from Winona who had been tried for murder in six different trials and spent 23 years in prison before the charges were dropped, filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the district attorney who prosecuted him.
Flowers sued Mississippi District Attorney Doug Evans in federal court for a variety of alleged misconducts by Evans and three investigators, including pressuring witnesses to implicate Flowers and ignoring other more likely suspects.
In his most recent trial, Flowers was convicted for the 1996 killings of four people and sentenced to death. His lawyers appealed the conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 2019 that Evans, the district attorney, unconstitutionally kept Black people from serving on the jury.
Over Flowers’ six trials, 61 of the 72 jurors were white.
“Curtis Flowers never should have been charged,” said Rob McDuff of the Mississippi Center for Justice, the Mississippi-based law firm that represented Flowers for years. “The murders were clearly the work of professional criminals. Curtis Flowers was 26 years old with no criminal record and nothing in his history to suggest he would commit a crime like this. The prosecution was tainted throughout by racial discrimination and repeated misconduct. This lawsuit seeks accountability for that misconduct.”
The story of Flowers, whose murder charges were finally dropped in September 2020, earned national attention after it was featured on the popular podcast “In the Dark.” This federal lawsuit was already garnering national headlines on Friday.
“Too many of the innocent people wrongly imprisoned in this country were victims of misconduct by prosecutors and law enforcement officers,” said Vangela M. Wade, president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice. “Most are not held accountable. While Curtis Flowers was trapped behind bars for nearly a quarter century, Doug Evans has faced virtually no consequences for his crusade to convict this innocent man and for his discriminatory manipulation of the legal system. We are pursuing this lawsuit to bring some level of accountability.”
Editor’s note: Vangela M. Wade is a member of Mississippi Today’s board of directors.