After 23 years in jail, lawyers for Curtis Flowers want him to receive bail as he awaits a potential seventh trial on charges that he murdered four people at the Tardy Furniture Store in Winona.
Circuit Judge Joseph Loper has ordered a bail hearing to take place Dec. 16 at the Webster County Courthouse in Walthall. The order comes after Flowers’ attorney, Rob McDuff, recently filed a motion requesting a bail hearing.
Flowers is charged with capital murder. McDuff argues that state law requires bail following two mistrials.
However, updated state laws that went into force in July prohibit bail for capital murder charges.
Flowers has been tried six times for the 1996 murders in Winona. Four trials ended in convictions that were later overturned by higher courts, and two more ended in a mistrial.
District Attorney Doug Evans has yet to file any motions before the court for the case and has made very few public remarks. However, Evans told the Winona Times in September that he disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that overturned Flowers’ most recent conviction and remanded the case back down to circuit court.
“I think it was a ridiculous ruling,” Evans told the Winona Times. “They basically said there was nothing wrong with the case and reversed it anyway.”
In June, the nation’s highest court in a 7-2 ruling overturned Flowers’ latest conviction on the grounds that Evans deliberately kept black people from serving on the jury, which denied Flowers’ right to a fair trial.
“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,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the Court’s majority opinion.
However, two justices believe there was not sufficient evidence to determine that Evans engaged in discriminatory behavior.
“As I have demonstrated, the evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the State did not engage in purposeful race discrimination,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the Court’s dissent. “Any competent prosecutor would have struck the jurors struck below.”
The bail hearing comes at a time when the NAACP has filed a federal lawsuit against Evans asking the federal court system to ensure that Evans does not intentionally strike black people from serving on juries within his judicial district and force him to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Evans or an attorney on his behalf has not responded to the lawsuit.
The hearing also comes at a time when fresh academic research has surfaced that concluded that African Americans are four times more likely than whites to be struck from serving on the jury in the judicial district that Flowers has been tried in.
Flowers remains in jail at the Winston-Choctaw County Correctional Facility.