2021 Regular Session
By: Senator(s) Jackson (11th), Simmons (12th), Jordan, Turner-Ford, Norwood, Barnett, Frazier, Butler, Witherspoon, Thomas, Jackson (32nd)
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION APOLOGIZING FOR THE ROLE OF THE STATE IN THE PROSECUTION OF CURTIS FLOWERS OF WINONA, MISSISSIPPI, WHO WAS TRIED AN UNPRECEDENTED SIX TIMES IN A MURDER CASE AND SPENT 23 YEARS IN PRISON AND HIS FINAL CONVICTION WAS APPEALED TO THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT WHICH OVERTURNED THE VERDICT ON THE BASIS OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AFTER WHICH CHARGES WERE FINALLY DISMISSED.
WHEREAS, twenty-three and one-half years after his arrest, and after an unprecedented series of six trials, the prosecution of Curtis Flowers finally came to an end on September 4, 2020, with the dismissal of the murder charges against him in this case from Winona, Mississippi, that has garnered national attention; and
WHEREAS, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch filed a motion to dismiss the charges after lawyers in her office spent several months reviewing the evidence and the history of the case. Fitch's office was appointed after the District Attorney of Montgomery County, who prosecuted the case since the beginning, withdrew in the face of a motion by Flowers' lawyers to remove him. Judge Joseph Loper, who presided over the fifth and sixth trials and who granted bail to Flowers in December, granted the Attorney General's motion to dismiss the case; and
WHEREAS, Flowers was accused of capital murder in the killing of four people inside a furniture store in Winona, Mississippi. "The case against Curtis Flowers never made sense," said Flowers' attorney, Rob McDuff of the Mississippi Center for Justice. "He was 26 years old with no criminal record and nothing in his history to suggest he would commit a crime like this. As time went by, even more evidence emerged to corroborate his innocence. This prosecution was flawed from the beginning and was tainted throughout by racial discrimination. It should never have occurred and lasted far too long, but we are glad it is finally over"; and
WHEREAS, Flowers was imprisoned for two decades and faced six murder trials. The Mississippi Supreme Court overturned Flowers' first three convictions, two of which resulted in death sentences, and his next two trials ended in hung juries. After his last trial in 2010, a Montgomery County jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to death. His lawyers appealed the case and last year, the United States Supreme Court ruled Flowers deserved a new trial because state's lead prosecutor had engaged in unconstitutional racial discrimination by striking African American jurors from the panel; and
WHEREAS, Sheri Johnson and Keir Weyble of Cornell Law School, who took on Flowers' case not long after his sixth trial, handled his appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, and later won reversal of his conviction in the Supreme Court of the United States, said, "Curtis Flowers never should have been prosecuted, let alone forced to stand trial six times. The prosecution's indifference to his innocence and willingness to discriminate in jury selection kept him wrongly incarcerated for more than two decades. Mr. Flowers can never get back the years he lost, but we rejoice with him and his family that he has been vindicated and is finally free." The dismissal comes at a time when worldwide protests over police killings of Black people have highlighted the role racial discrimination plays in the American system of justice; and
WHEREAS, the Flowers family said they felt happy and blessed because a weight "has been finally lifted" from Flowers' shoulders. "We have prayed for this day and are looking forward to the future knowing that our brother will not be going back to prison. We know our Mom is looking down and our only wish is that she could have been here to welcome Curtis home," the family said in a statement; and
WHEREAS, while an apology from the state will not erase the crimes committed and the pain of the families involved, nor will it restore the time of life lost by Curtis Flowers due to his incarceration, it may inspire the citizens of this state and the nation as to the confidence in our legal system:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING THEREIN, That we do hereby issue an apology on behalf of the State of Mississippi for the role of the state in the prosecution of Curtis Flowers of Winona, Mississippi, who was tried an unprecedented six times in a murder case and spent 23 years in prison and his final conviction was appealed to the United States Supreme Court which overturned the verdict on the basis of racial discrimination after which charges were finally dismissed, and express to Curtis Flowers and his family our deepest sorrow for this unjust experience.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this resolution be presented to Curtis Flowers and his family, forwarded to the Mississippi Attorney General and the Mississippi Prosecutors Association and the Board of Supervisors of Montgomery County, and made available to the Capitol Press Corps.