A man who spent over 23 years on death row for a crime he did not commit will receive the state’s maximum compensation for wrongful convictions.
This Aug. 3, 2017 photo provided by Mississippi Department of Corrections shows Curtis Flowers, who’s murder case has gone to trial six times. (Mississippi Department of Corrections)Mississippi 5th Circuit Judge George Mitchell judge ruled Tuesday, March 2, that 50-year-old Curtis Flowers will be compensated $500,000 after facing six trials, two of which resulted in death sentences.
Flowers will receive $50,000 a year for the next 10 years, for a total compensation of $500,000, the state’s maximum for those wrongfully imprisoned.
Flowers spent nearly half of his life on death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman after he was convicted for a 1996 quadruple murder. Over the years, multiple convictions were overturned.
He was convicted of the murders of Tardy Furniture owner Bertha Tardy and employees Carmen Rigby, Robert Golden and Derrick Stewart, who were all shot with a .380-caliber pistol. Flowers had worked at the store for a short while, and prosecutors said he killed Tardy because she docked his pay and fired him, then killed the other workers because they were witnesses to the crime.
Prosecutor Doug Evans took Flowers to trial six times. Four trials ended in convictions, two in mistrials. He was convicted by an all-white jury in the first trial in 1997, and his second, third and sixth trials ended in convictions by juries with only one Black juror. In June 2019, the Supreme Court struck down the latest conviction, and prosecutors decided last year not to pursue the case a seventh time.
There had been little evidence against Flowers in the case, and although some experts said there was likely more than one person involved in the crime, only Flowers was ever charged.
In a 2019 federal suit filed by the Attala County branch of the NAACP against Evans, justices found that he worked to prevent Black jurors from being selected during the selection process. The suit was dismissed and is currently going through the appeals process.
Following his September release, Flowers released a statement through his attorneys, “Today, I am finally free from the injustice that left me locked in a box for nearly twenty three years,” the statement read. “I’ve been asked if I ever thought this day would come. I have been blessed with a family that never gave up on me and with them by my side, I knew it would.”