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NAACP sues the prosecutor who tried Curtis Flowers six times

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Doug Evans and staff. Photo from his website.

The Attala County branch of the NAACP in Mississippi is suing to stop a prosecutor from removing African Americans from juries in his trials.

The lawsuit stems from the case of Curtis Flowers, an African American man who has been tried six times for the 1996 killings of four people in Winona, Miss.

The defendant in the lawsuit, Doug Evans, is the district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District in Mississippi. Evans was the prosecutor in all six of Flowers’ trials, all of which have either ended in mistrials or have been later overturned on charges of prosecutorial misconduct, primarily for not allowing African Americans to be seated on the juries.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the death-penalty conviction in Flowers’ sixth trial because of the way Evans picked his jury. Writing for the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the court found “clear error” on Evans’ part.

Curtis Flowers

In Winona, which is 53 percent black, only one of the twelve jurors for Flowers’ sixth trial was African American. That dynamic has held true in every trial were Evans secured a conviction, according to an analysis by the Clarion Ledger. In his first trial, Flowers faced an all-white jury, and like the last trial, the second and third trials only had one black juror. His fourth and fifth trials, which both ended in hung juries, had five and three African American jurors, respectively.

In all, 61 of the 72 jurors in Flowers’ six trials were white, and every one of them voted to convict. Six of the 11 African American jurors voted not-guilty.

“Equal justice under law requires a criminal trial free of racial discrimination in the jury selection process,” Kavanaugh wrote for the 7-2 majority opinion vacating Flowers’ fourth conviction by all white or nearly all-white juries.

“The State’s relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of black individuals strongly suggests that the State wanted to try Flowers before a jury with as few black jurors as possible, and ideally before an all-white jury.”

But the Flowers’ trials are far from the only trial where Evans overwhelmingly struck African American from his juries.

The lawsuit references an investigation by American Public Media, broadcast by the podcast “In the Dark.” APM found that in 225 trials, Evans struck African American jurors at a rate 4.4 times greater than whites. The rate more than doubled when the person being prosecuted was white.

In a September interview with the Winona Times, Evans was adamant that the Supreme Court ruling in June was wrong.

“I think it was a ridiculous ruling,” he said.

“In the absence of intervention by this Court, Evans will ignore the Supreme Court’s decision and continue his office’s policy, custom, and usage of racial discrimination in the use of peremptory challenges—not just in Curtis Flowers’ case, but in every case in the Fifth Circuit Court District in which Black citizens appear for jury service,” the lawsuit concludes.

Evans has held his position as prosecutor since 1992. On Nov. 4 he was re-elected for another four-year term. Evans ran unopposed, and the position is not term limited.

 

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Massive search continues for two young men on the Mississippi

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(photo by Thomas Parker)

Nearly 24 hours after two young men disappeared on the Mississippi River near the Warren-Claiborne county line, rescuers, many of them community members and volunteers, are still on the job searching for them.

The young men, Gunner Palmer, 16, from Copiah County, and Zeb Hughes, 21, of Wesson, Mississippi, went out on a boat Thursday with their dog to find a good spot for duck hunting near Davis Island. Hughes’ mom spoke with her son at 2:48 p.m. Thursday, which may be the last time anyone has spoken to them since.

When they hadn’t returned by Thursday after dark, and family and friends couldn’t reach them by phone, they raised the alarm.

The search began in Warren County around 9 p.m. Thursday with county deputies and personnel from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The rainy weather and fog hampered the search, which was called off after midnight.

“We had boats out last night until after 2 o’clock this (Friday) morning when the fog and the rain just made it too dangerous to be on the water,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said.

First light Friday morning, the search resumed, with more personnel and volunteers joining as the day brightened. They included volunteers with the Cajun Navy, MDWFP personnel, Warren County and Madison Parish deputies, and 28 men and women from the Central Mississippi Overland Search and Rescue Team, which consists of police and firefighters from around the state. A private aircraft and another plane from Madison Parish have also been searching, along with numerous people from the community on land and in the river.

Around 9 a.m., the hunters’ boat was found capsized in the water near Middle Ground Island, roughly adjacent to the Claiborne-Warren county line.

A few items from what would have been on the boat were located later; including one of the three life vests that were onboard.

People tend to underestimate the power of the Mississippi River and there’s nothing to say the two young men had experience traversing it.

“The Mississippi River is dangerous on its best day, and deadly on its worst, and yesterday was just not the best day to be on the water,” Pace said.

The overland search has been called off for Friday. Rescuers will rendezvous Saturday at 7 a.m. to continue, if necessary.

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City employees to ring the bell in support of the Salvation Army

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(photo source: Salvation Army)

”The need is great, but the strength of the community is greater!”

City of Vicksburg employees will be doing their part in assisting the local Salvation Army in operation “Rescue Christmas.” Employees will ring the bell at Kroger from 8 a.m.to 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7.

There are several ways to give at the kettle. Cash is accepted via Apple and Google pay, or you can scan a code that will direct patrons to the Vicksburg kettle donation site. More importantly, all proceeds stay right here in Vicksburg!

Please stop by and help the employees of the City of Vicksburg “Rescue Christmas”!

Schedule – Kroger Monday, Dec. 7

8 a.m. – 9 a.m.
Gary Jackson and Rick Daughtry

9 a.m. – 10 a.m.
COV Traffic Dept

10 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Kim Hopkins and Ashley Hoeft

11 a.m. – noon
Malinda Hill and Fayeshetta Odoms

Noon – 1 p.m.
Fermika Smith and Deputy Chief Paymon

1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
Trey Martin  and Alex Monsour

2 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Vicksburg Fire Department

3 p.m.-4 p.m.
Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and Officer Joseph Stubbs

4 p.m. –  5 p.m.
Nancy Thomas and Doug Whittington

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COVID-19

Mayor taking the gloves off on businesses not complying with COVID-19 regulations

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Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr. in Dec. 4 press conference. (photo via video screen grab)

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. is taking off the gloves when it comes to COVID-19 in Vicksburg.

In response to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Warren County, Flaggs announced Friday that any business not conforming to the city’s COVID-19 restrictions will be cited and fined. If the business continues to flout the law, the city will turn off its utilities. This new, tougher restriction goes into effect at noon Saturday, Dec. 6.

The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases rose to more than 20 per day Friday with 46 cases reported. The average is four times higher than where it was a month ago.

“The mitigation of this disease is too important,” Flaggs said, his voice rising with emotion. He said that continuing the trend will land Warren County on the governor’s hot spot list.

“We will not compromise, and we will not negotiate,” the Mayor added.

Flaggs said that most businesses in Vicksburg are complying to the city’s orders, but a few continue to ignore them.

“We’re not going to let one business disrupt the economy of Vicksburg by not wanting to do what you should be doing,” he said.

Summary of the new order:
Read the complete supplemental order

In addition to the regulations effective Dec. 2, 2020:

  1. All persons are required to wear a face covering, both indoors and outdoors, at group/social gatherings if social distancing (6 feet apart from persons who are not household members) is not or cannot be practiced.
  2. Group/social gathering temperature checks – before entering a group/social gathering, inside or outside, of more than 20 people, the host or other designated responsible person must check the temperature of all persons requesting entrance. If a person’s temperature is higher than 100.4°, the person must not be allowed to enter the group/social gathering. Examples of a group/social gathering are a private party, house party, wedding, wedding reception, wedding or baby shower, sporting event, funeral, worship service or other social event. The host or other designated responsible person must also keep a list of persons attending the gathering and contact information for contact tracing if needed.
  3. Restaurants and bars – businesses that sell alcohol for consumption on its premises or businesses that allow consumption of alcohol on its premises must check the temperature of every employee and patron before entrance. If a person’s temperature is above 100.4°, the person must not be allowed to enter the premises.
  4. The Block Party scheduled for Downtown Vicksburg Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, is canceled and all future Block Parties are canceled until further notice.

Violation of this EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION will be subject to misdemeanor prosecution pursuant to Sec. 45-17-9 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended, Sec. 33-15-7 and Sec. 1-9 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Vicksburg, including a fine of up to $1,000.00 and 90 days in jail.

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