JACKSON – The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the trial judge’s stay in post-conviction appeal proceedings for Curtis Flowers until the United States Supreme Court makes its ruling on whether racial bias was used in the selection of the jury that convicted Flowers in 2010 for the murders of four people in 1996.
The post-conviction appeal challenging the evidence used to convict Flowers, now 48, will be halted until the U.S. Supreme Court hands down its ruling in late June. Circuit Judge Joseph Loper, Jr., ordered the stay on January 23, and the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld his ruling on March 28.
Flowers, who is represented by the Innocence Project, argued that the post-conviction appeal should continue with the discovery phase, however, the Mississippi Supreme Court disagreed and upheld Loper’s stay in the proceedings.
On March 20, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether District Attorney Doug Evans used racial bias when striking black jurors from serving on the jury of the 2010 Curtis Flowers trial, the sixth trial in the case which led to the current conviction and death sentence of Flowers.
Flowers was convicted for the 1996 murders of Bertha Tardy, Carmen Rigby, Robert Golden, and Derrick “Bobo” Stewart in Tardy Furniture in Winona in 1996.
Three previous convictions were overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court, and the other two ended in mistrials after the jury was not able to reach a unanimous verdict. One of the convictions was overturned due to Evans improperly striking African Americans from serving on the jury.
Supreme Court justices made clear that they would not ignore Evans’ past history of a conviction overturned for Batson violations as they deliberate whether his decision to excuse five black prospective jurors from the 2010 trial was due to race. The high court’s decision in Batson v. Kentucky in 1986 set up a system by which trial judges could evaluate claims of discrimination in peremptory strikes and prosecutors’ explanations that have nothing to do with race.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.