Friday, June 21, 2019

Supremes Overturn Curtis Flowers Conviction

- Justices cite discriminatory use of preemptive strikes during jury selection in sixth trial.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Curtis Flowers and remanded the case for a new trial on a 7-2 vote. The Court stated:

Petitioner Curtis Flowers has been tried six separate times for the murder of four employees of a Mississippi furniture store. Flowers is black; three of the four victims were white. At the first two trials, the State used its peremptory strikes on all of the qualified black prospective jurors. In each case, the jury convicted Flowers and sentenced him to death, but the convictions were later reversed by the Mississippi Supreme Court based on prosecutorial misconduct. At the third trial, the State used all of its 15 peremptory strikes against black prospective jurors, and the jury convicted Flowers and sentenced him to death. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed again, this time concluding that the State exercised its peremptory strikes on the basis of race in violation of Batson v. Kentucky,

476 U. S. 79. Flowers’ fourth and fifth trials ended in mistrials. At the fourth, the State exercised 11 peremptory strikes—all against black prospective jurors. No available racial information exists about the prospective jurors in the fifth trial. At the sixth trial, the State exercised six per- emptory strikes—five against black prospective jurors, allowing one black juror to be seated. Flowers again raised a Batson claim, but the trial court concluded that the State had offered race-neutral rea- sons for each of the five peremptory strikes. The jury convicted Flowers and sentenced him to death. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. After this Court vacated that judgment and remanded in light of Foster v. Chatman, 578 U. S., the Mississippi Supreme Court again upheld Flowers’ conviction in a divided 5-to-4 decision. Justice King dissented on the Batson issue and was joined by two other Justices.

Held: All of the relevant facts and circumstances taken together estab- lish that the trial court at Flowers’ sixth trial committed clear error in concluding that the State’s peremptory strike of black prospective juror Carolyn Wright was not motivated in part by substantial by discriminatory intent...

(4) Comparing prospective jurors who were struck and not struck can be an important step in determining whether a Batson violation occurred. See Snyder v. Louisiana, 552 U. S. 472, 483–484. Here, Carolyn Wright, a black prospective juror, was struck, the State says, in part because she knew several defense witnesses and had worked at WalMart where Flowers’ father also worked. But three white prospective jurors also knew many individuals involved in the case, and the State asked them no individual questions about their connections to witnesses. White prospective jurors also had relationships with members of Flowers’ family, but the State did not ask them follow-up questions in order to explore the depth of those relationships. The State also incorrectly explained that it exercised a peremptory strike against Wright because she had worked with one of Flowers’ sisters and made apparently incorrect statements to justify the strikes of other black prospective jurors. When considered with other evidence, a series of factually inaccurate explanations for striking black prospective jurors can be another clue showing discriminatory intent. The overall context here requires skepticism of the State’s strike of Carolyn Wright. The trial court at Flowers’ sixth trial com- mitted clear error in concluding that the State’s peremptory strike of black prospective juror Carolyn Wright was not motivated in substantial part by discriminatory intent. Pp. 26–30.

240 So. 3d 1082, reversed and remanded.

KAVANAUGH, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and GINSBURG, BREYER, ALITO, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, Alito, J. filed a concurring opinion. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion in which GORSUCH joined as to Parts I, II, and III.


Macy Hanson said...

This should have been 9-0.

Curtis Flowers does not go free. He merely gets a new trial. Hopefully a fair one.

Anonymous said...

What a mess. The Feds should try to intervene and figure out an angle.

This DA is a nightmare

Anonymous said...

At what point are prosecutors held accountable for racism? Honest question.

Anonymous said...

Do people actually think white people are not honest? After 6 trials maybe people should not keep demanding there be only blacks on the jury.
Anyone remember O.J.?

Anonymous said...

Read the Thomas dissent.

Anonymous said...

Defense counsel used all their peremptory strikes on white jurors- but that ok.

Anonymous said...

This is a total waste of time and money.

He did it. Everybody knows he did it.

Give his ass the needle and let's be done with it.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The investigation was incompetent from the outset. Two far more likely suspects were entirely overlooked.

The DA's level of ethical conduct from start to finish was non-existent. He even protected a violent criminal to further what looks to many as a frame up. That he hasn't been disbarred is a disgrace.

It was racism and laziness and egos that couldn't admit mistakes on the part of law enforcement and the DA's office.

Mrs. Tardy deserved better and the blame lies squarely in Winona.

If there's a moral bone left in Winona, they should "clean house".

The Governor should pardon Flowers if he has any moral fiber. And,it's way past time for the Mississippi Bar to be more than an " old boys club".

The pod knows said...

Listen the the podcast In The Dark before you judge this man. He should be free. Very sad situation.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

@Unknown - obviously you are not familiar with the facts of this case. But please, do share your uninformed opinion with the rest of the class!

Anonymous said...

Defense counsel used all there strikes on white people, because there were no blacks left on the jury, you brainless dweeb.

Anonymous said...

10:48 In all criminal trials, ALL criminal trials, the state has a higher burden and more restrictions than the defendant. That is our system of justice. A white defendant would do the same with black jurors if it were to his advantage. Now there.

Anonymous said...

"He did it. Everyone knows he did it." Which is why in his 6 TRIALS, the prosecution had to cheat every time. Let's review the evidence: never found the murder weapon, no eyewitness saw Flowers come in or out of the store, what eyewitness testimony there was placed him walking around downtown (and that evidence was contradictory), there was no real motive, Flowers was a 26 yo black male with absolutely no criminal record before this. But supposedly, he walked into a popular store in broad daylight and executed 4 people by himself? Oh, I forgot the snitches. First there were jailhouse snitches alleging that he confessed while in jail awaiting his first trial, each of whom had deals with the prosecutor. When they recanted, Doug Evans miraculously found a guy from his circuit court district who was in Parchman and allegedly heard Flowers confess from death row that he did it. He received numerous sweetheart deals from Evans and ended up brutally killing someone while out. He has since recanted and claimed that Evans told him to testify about the confession. But yeah, sure, we all know Flowers did it.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Was this the same prosecuting attorney in all of the trials? Who is this idiot, who finds it impossible to play by the rules (the rules being the rules of ethics governing lawyers and the published opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court)?

Anonymous said...

Gorsuch and Thomas are disgraces

Anonymous said...

Damn “UNKNOWN “ every comment you post got deleted. What was he saying?

Anonymous said...

Perfect example of a LYNCHING and folks want to know why a story on CB getting attacked matters.

Anonymous said...

Just another day in backwoods Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

There was no credible evidence in any of the 6 trials. None. Zero. The District Attorney should be disbarred if he attempts a 7th trial.

Anonymous said...

Thomas is 100% correct. The 1986 Supreme Court case that says you cannot strike a juror for race is just wrong. What is right is to say each side has a limited number of people they can strike without giving a reason. Period. That is fair. The reasoning behind the 1986 case must assume that jurors will do their best to decide cases fairly and will not be influenced for or against either side by race. We live in Mississippi. Many of us have served several times on juries. We KNOW that often people on juries are influenced by their race. It's just a fact. The court insults our intelligence when it pretends otherwise. Thomas is in his 80's now. He does a terrific job. I'm going to miss him.

Anonymous said...

"There was no credible evidence in any of the 6 trials. None. Zero. The District Attorney should be disbarred if he attempts a 7th trial."

A couple of points:

1. It is the role of the jury to decide whether or not properly-admitted evidence is credible and apparently at least four found that the evidence of his guilt presented by the prosecutor was more credible than the evidence of his innocence presented by his defense counsel. I would suggest that while one or even two guilty verdicts could be at least arguably attributable to his counsel, after four guilty verdicts, the evidence of his guilt is significantly more than "none."

2. To suggest that each member of each jury found him guilty simply because they are white and he is black is as racist (and as logically and factually indefensible) as suggesting that every black person will acquit any black defendant simply because they are both black.

Anonymous said...

to all the kavqanaugh cheerleaders.........they sold him to you as a big he screwed you..... whaddya say now cheerleaders?

Cbalducc said...

It’s interesting that this case hasn’t received extensive coverage in the state media all these years.

Anonymous said...

9:58 pm You are accurate but ill-informed on the facts. A jury cannot make good decisions when the prosecutor puts witnesses on the stand who later ALL recant and testified out of fear or personal gain.

10:38 pm The ruling was 7-2 with only the Batson claim being considered as it was the easiest path to a re-trial. If the Supreme Court had being ruling on prosecutorial misconduct and withholding evidence of the " deals" made by the DA with witnesses, the overturn would have been unanimous. 7 understood that the DA was getting better at trying to circumvent Batson each time. Whatever your political agenda, you just persuaded everyone that you have nothing to say worth hearing.

Cheerleader No. 5 said...

This cheerleader says this: Kavanaugh's decision was based on his reading of the law, not his race, his political persuasion or whether he's conservative/liberal. You cannot say that about those for whom you lead cheers.

The decision and our reaction to it should not be about black and white or whether we think the man is guilty. Whether the prosecutor followed the laws of this nation is all this is about.

I'm not hungry for this man's execution as I have no knowledge one way or the other as to his guilt or innocence.

Anonymous said...

to all the cheerleaders for chief justice roberts........ once again they sold him to you as a big conservative, and he screwed you on the obamacare decision,,,,,,,,,,,whaddaya stay now cheerleader no 5?

Anonymous said...

9:58PM, responding to 10:23AM - "A jury cannot make good decisions when the prosecutor puts witnesses on the stand who later ALL recant and testified out of fear or personal gain."

That is not an accurate statement. For example, assume a crime on video where there is and can be no question of the crime and the person committing it. Inaccurate or even outright false testimony by witnesses, regardless of their motive, doesn't negate the substantive incriminating evidence of the video. In this case, I believe all of the evidence was circumstantial but cumulative and not all of the witnesses recanted although at least one corroboration was recanted. I would not argue with anyone stating that this case was a mess on a variety of fronts, including a variety of mistakes by lawyers and investigators (including Chokwe Lumumba) on both sides. In any event, my original point was, and still is, that anyone stating that there was NO evidence of his guilt is just as wrong as anyone stating that the evidence of his guilt is manifest. I would suggest that the best resolution all around would be an Alford plea and a judicially-imposed term of imprisonment, with the death penalty and further appeals off the table. Getting the MSSC to appoint a special judge, preferably senior status, would be good and if that judge could be as close to a Richard Posner as possible, so much the better.

As an aside, I support the death penalty in principle, but like so many things that are workable in principle, it fails miserably in the real world. This case is, at least to me, a near-perfect example of how f'ed up death penalty cases can get: strong but not irrefutable evidence of guilt, an over-zealous (at best) prosecutor and at least some over-zealous investigators and a defense team doing its share to rack up a win at the expense of the justice system, and each cheered on by hyper-partisan kibitzers who revel in putting their personal emotions and opinions over facts.

Justice for All said...

You should read Justice Thomas’ dissent before making ANY comments about this case. It tells the complete story. It is long, but interesting, especially for non-lawyers. An easy link is in the Mississippi Today story.

Anonymous said...

Justice for All said...
"You should read Justice Thomas’ dissent before making ANY comments about this case. It tells the complete story."

I absolutely agree that folks ought to read his dissent as well as the opinion before they comment and/or form opinions. I have read the opinion and dissent and with all due respect to Justice Thomas, clearly his "complete story" isn't all that complete as it failed to persuade seven other SCOTUS Justices, including Roberts, Kavanaugh and Alito. I would offer the opinion and dissent as yet another reason I am in favor of the death penalty in principle but not necessarily in practice: it is a rare death penalty case indeed where objective, rational people can agree that the "complete story" is, was, or will ever be before the courts or the jury.

Anonymous said...

Just my $0.02: I suspect what might have happened is that the case was originally assigned to Justice Thomas, who wrote the opinion for overturning, or at least modifying, Batson v. Kentucky. When it couldn't get the votes, it "flipped" to the dissenters, who then became the majority.

This is the different between conservative judges and conservative ideology. As I understand it, "conservative" judges supposedly apply the law as it is, regardless of whether they think it's right or fair. This is in contradiction to the so-called "activist judges," who interpret the law to mean what they think it's supposed to mean, and deviate from cases they think were wrongly decided.

I suspect a lot of folks thought they were getting judges and justices who would be activist jurists for conservative ideology. I respect some activist judges, and I respect some conservative judges. I do not respect judges who are "conservative" only when it is convenient for their personal belief systems, or who hide judicial activism underneath a facade of judicial conservatism.

Anonymous said...

dissents are for the losers mr 3:14

Anonymous said...

Supreme Court - Can anyone explain to us why the D's always appoint the flaming liberal that they thought they were getting while the R's have no idea what they are getting until it is too late???

Anonymous said...

"This is the different between conservative judges and conservative ideology. As I understand it, "conservative" judges supposedly apply the law as it is, regardless of whether they think it's right or fair. This is in contradiction to the so-called "activist judges," who interpret the law to mean what they think it's supposed to mean, and deviate from cases they think were wrongly decided."

Well, I would offer that there are two different "laws" in place. One is the statutory law and as long as that "law" is Constitutionally permitted, it squarely and solely the role of the legislative and executive. With statutory law, the primary decisions for a judge or Justice should be, "is what the legislative body created Constitutional?" and "is the language of the statute clear and unambiguous?" If the answer to both is "yes, it is," then that judge or Justice is obligated to enforce it as enacted. Obviously, if the statute is ambiguous, the courts are the immediate source of interpretation, but only to the point of legislative correction of any ambiguity (and such correction is often suggested or invited by the courts).

The second "law," and where the source of most contention lies, involves stare decisis. Consider for example Plessy and Brown. Would most folks contend that Brown was wrong by failing to fully uphold Plessy? I would suggest they would not. Consider also the myriad of cases of lesser social impact and import where a reviewing court simply makes a mistake and it is generally agreed by the court itself as well as other courts, legal scholars, etc., that a mistake was made. Would sensible people argue that even though it is agreed a mistake was made, so be it and it must remain in error forever? I would suggest that here is where judges and justices tend to, er, "wander" from an appropriate judicial path. Onlookers go even further afield when they have strong personal opinions about the matter under consideration and it remaining the same or being readdressed/changed, with abortion and marriage being prime examples of the last 40 or so years.

The point that judges should never allow their personal emotions to influence their judicial decision-making is a very good one. I do not think that most people realize how scary such terms as "conservative" or "liberal" are when applied to judges, especially SCOTUS justices, and how truly horrifying it is when they render opinions/make decisions that tend to reinforce such labels. Interestingly, history may show that although they were championed by (and as) "conservatives" and opposed by "liberals," Roberts, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch were (unwittingly by the presidents that nominated them) outstanding picks for SCOTUS because they have thus far shown a willingness to rule as they believe judicial impartiality dictates.

Anonymous said...

to 10:23...'you got nothing to say with hearing'......well, you sure seemed to eat it up

For the Clown Who Chirps About Cheerleading.. said...

@ 1:55 - Your cheerleader bull shit is getting tiresome. You're a liberal and you know as well as I do that you want judges who will 'write new law' and interpret the Constitution as if it's a living, growing, changing document subject to whim interpretation. Conservatives and other constitutionalists want the opposite.

I want justices who will interpret the Constitution as written, not justices who will rule according to liberal whims and wishes while ignoring the document. I have no problem with any of Kavanaugh's votes although I wish a few had gone differently. It's my belief that he is not swayed by party loyalty or conservative ideology.

The liberals on the court, however.....and those who lead cheers for a flexible Constitution....Well, there you find yourself.

Anonymous said...

District attorneys should answer to and ultimately be controlled by the state Attorney General. The ability of these lors to run their own little serfdoms and refuse to play by the rules by seeking justice, not convictions, is a miscarriage of justice. This is not the 18th century.

Anonymous said...

to 11;47 'getting tiresome'?.......i never get tired of watching you rednecks get played by your own political party. this is not about liberal or conservative. its about nominees for the supreme court who proclaim themselves as one person during their confirmation hearings and then become a polar opposite once they are confirmed.

Anonymous said...

6:37 I think you missed the point. When you say conservative judges must follow the law. Conservative judges in my mind, follow the constitution, because sometimes the previous decisions are wrong. A good example would be this 1986 decision that said when selecting a jury your 'free strikes' aren't free if we think you struck someone because of their race. Putting someone on a jury and expecting that their race will have no bearing on how they vote is laughable. Yes, there are folks who aren't influenced by race, but very,very many are and everyone knows it. So long as the number of free strikes is limited, no reason should be required. Either that, or do away with free strikes altogether. I think C. Thomas was hoping to get that 1986 decision overturned as it should be. (I know very little about Flowers case and have no opinion about him, but I do know that race is important in the jury room. Both blacks and whites are known to let race influence them). So while conservative judges try to follow the constitution, liberal judges feel that sometimes the constitution is outdated. To which we conservatives say, when that is the case congress should modify the applicable law or the constitution should be amended. It is not the role of judges to amend the constitution.

Anonymous said...

to 5:07... you dont know much about the political structure in this third world nation , do you? . ' little serfdoms"....otherwise know as little fiefdoms, are all this little BS state is made up of. there are no less than about 1500 fiefdoms here . it harkens all the way back to the fudal system in europe. thats why this place is nothing but total chaos.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

3:11 pm I know what circumstantial evidence is. And, well know that it can be accumulative and convincing. I don't watch the CSI and Bull because they are so far-fetched.
I've also been picked for juries every time I've been called . And, I'm telling you that if the prosecutor has withheld exculpatory evidence like the existence of other credible suspects, not informed the jury that the witness is getting a " deal" for testifying or has been coerced into testifying, then the jury can't be expected to properly weigh the testimony.
It is happening too often that our prosecutors care more about " winning" than about justice. And, too often, the defendant doesn't have competent counsel or the resources to hire good investigators or forensic experts.
In all the juries on which I served, every juror took their duty very seriously.
The lawyers who see our justice system as a game about winning and losing and personal gain are destroying confidence in our judicial system. The legal profession as a whole has lost enormous respect in my lifetime.
If you are a lawyer, you are one of the ones who is destroying the profession by forgetting that there's an important larger purpose to your job than how many times you win or how much income you make. That's why it's a profession. Other professions are forgetting that as well.
And, unless you are poorly educated, you should know when a society loses confidence in it's professionals, it's in it's death knell.

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