12/16/2019 9:20:00 AM Judge holding bond hearing for man tried 6 times in killings
Emily Wagster Pettus Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A judge is being asked Monday to set bond for a Mississippi man who has been tried six times in the same quadruple murder case.
Curtis Flowers, 49, is scheduled to appear in Montgomery County Circuit Court in Winona. That is the town where four employees of the Tardy Furniture store were shot to death in 1996.
Four of Flowers’ convictions were overturned and there were two mistrials.
Flowers remains under the same indictments that were handed down in 1997. District Attorney Doug Evans has not said whether he intends to try him a seventh time.
One of the attorneys now representing Flowers is Rob McDuff of the Mississippi Center for Justice. He argues that Mississippi law requires bail after two capital murder mistrials.
“I’m not aware of any case where someone has been tried six times,” McDuff said Friday.
During the sixth trial in 2010, Flowers was sentenced to death. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that conviction in June, finding that prosecutors had shown an unconstitutional pattern of excluding African American jurors in the trials of Flowers, who is black.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Flowers was moved off death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and taken to a regional jail in the central Mississippi town of Louisville. He remained in custody because he is under indictment.
The four people killed on July 16, 1996, were 59-year-old store owner Bertha Tardy and three employees — 45-year-old Carmen Rigby, 42-year-old Robert Golden and 16-year-old Derrick “Bobo“ Stewart.
McDuff is asking Circuit Judge Joseph Loper to set a bail amount and allow Flowers to be released from custody for the first time in 22 years.
If the judge agrees to a bail bond, it’s unclear how soon Flowers could be released. The timing depends on several factors, including whether money is readily available from someone; generally, at least 10% must be paid. The timing also depends on how much paperwork must be completed and whether Flowers would have to return to the regional jail for that.
Flowers’ attorneys are expected to argue at another hearing, not yet set, that the judge should dismiss the charges.
Winona sits near the crossroads of Interstate 55, the major north-south artery in Mississippi, and U.S. Highway 82, which runs east to west. It about a half hour’s drive from the flatlands of the Mississippi Delta. Among its 4,300 residents, about 48% are black and 44% are white. Census Bureau figures show that about 30% live in poverty.
In mid-November, four black voters and a branch of the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to permanently order the district attorney, Evans, and his assistants to stop using peremptory challenges to remove African American residents as potential jurors because of their race.
The lawsuit cites an analysis of jury strikes by Evans from 1992 to 2017 by American Public Media’s “In the Dark” podcast. It found Evans’ office used peremptory strikes, which lawyers typically don’t have to explain, to remove 50% of eligible black jurors, but only 11% of eligible white jurors. The analysis was performed as part of a series of episodes questioning Flowers’ conviction in his sixth trial.