Criminal Justice

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Curtis Flowers, Man Tried 6 Times for Same Crime

The high court ruled that prosecutor Doug Evans violated Flowers' constitutional rights when Evans sought to keep African-Americans off of the jury.


Curtis Flowers, a black man tried six times for the same 1996 quadruple murder, will get a seventh trial, the Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Writing for the majority, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that prosecutor Doug Evans—who oversaw all six trials—violated Flowers' constitutional rights when he sought to keep African-Americans off of the jury. Evans struck 41 out of 43 potential black jurors over the course of the legal proceedings, including five out of six in the final trial. Such conduct is in contention with precedent outlined in Baston v. Kentucky, he said, a Supreme Court decision that ruled that peremptory challenges—in which a prosecutor may strike a juror without reason—cannot be racially biased.

"The numbers speak loudly," Kavanaugh wrote. "Over the course of the first four trials, there were 36 black prospective jurors against whom the State could have exercised a peremptory strike. The State tried to strike all 36."

Flowers is currently on death row. Two of his trials ended in hung juries, and with the high court's latest decision, all four convictions have been overturned on appeal.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented. "The majority builds its decision around the narrative that this case has a long history of race discrimination," Thomas wrote. "This narrative might make for an entertaining melodrama, but it has no basis in the record." It's hard to see how he arrived at that conclusion, though, when considering the years-long history of bias against African-American would-be jurors.

Evans has also garnered attention for allegations of further prosecutorial misconduct—such as introducing evidence unrelated to the crimes on trial—which contributed to Flowers' first two reversed convictions. But it doesn't stop there. I wrote back in April:

Evans has committed a slew of prosecutorial infractions, including the use of faulty testimony from Odell Harmon, a jailhouse snitch who falsely implicated Flowers after the state offered him a deal. He has since recanted. That drew mainstream outrage after the release of the second season of "In the Dark," a podcast profiling Flowers's jaw-dropping journey through the legal system.

More here.