Mississippi has tried Curtis Flowers six times for allegedly murdering four employees at a furniture store. Flowers is black and three of the four alleged victims were white.
Mississippi has not been able to convict Flowers because the prosecutor(s) handling each trial are flaming racists who got caught doing something no trial attorney should do. At the first two trials, they struck (e.g., removed with a peremptory challenge) all of the qualified black prospective jurors. Both juries convicted Flowers and sentenced him to death, but the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the convictions because of prosecutorial misconduct. At the third trial, the State used all 15 of its challenges to strike black prospective jurors, and the jury again convicted Flowers and sentenced him to death. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed again, this time because of a violation of Batson v. Kentucky, which held that once a defendant establishes a prima facie case of discrimination concerning the manner in which challenges are being used, the State must give race-neutral explanations for its challenges, and the trial judge must determine whether those reasons are valid or just a pretext for discrimination. The fourth and fifth trials ended in mistrials. At the fourth trial, the State used 11 challenges against black prospective jurors. No racial information concerning the prospective jurors at the fifth trial exists (or it was at least conveniently omitted from the State’s papers). At the sixth trial, the State used six challenges. Five were directed against black prospective jurors. One black juror was seated. Flowers raised a Batson claim, but the trial judge found that the State’s proffered explanations were race-neutral. The jury convicted Flowers and sentenced him to death, and the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. The United States Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded the case, but the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed again.
The United States Supreme Court reversed, finding that the surrounding facts and circumstances demonstrate that the trial judge’s conclusion at the sixth trial that the State’s reasons for striking one of the black prospective jurors were race-neutral was clearly erroneous. In doing so, the Court noted that four categories of evidence factored into its decision, where the State had a persistent pattern of striking black prospective jurors at each trial. Continue reading