Published: Mon, June 24, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Supreme Court sides with death row inmate in jury discrimination case

Supreme Court sides with death row inmate in jury discrimination case

Curtis Flowers, 49, was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to death for the July 1996 murders of four people in a furniture store in Winona, Mississippi, where he had briefly worked until being fired.

The Supreme Court held on Friday that a black MS death row inmate should get a new trial, saying the prosecutor who tried him six times for murder engaged in unconstitutional racial discrimination when striking African-American jurors from the panel.

Six times, District Attorney Doug Evans, who is white, has attempted to convict Curtis Flowers, who is black, in a prosecutorial pursuit that may be without parallel. The Mississippi Supreme Court repeatedly found that prosecutors had acted intentionally to exclude black jurors and that these trials were thus unconstitutional under Batson v. Kentucky, which bars the state from excluding prospective jurors "on account of race or on the false assumption that members of [the defendant's] race as a group are not qualified to serve as jurors". "The "entire line of cases following Batson" is 'a misguided effort to remedy a general societal wrong by using the Constitution to regulate the traditionally discretionary exercise of peremptory challenges, '" Thomas wrote, adding that "black criminal defendants will rue the day that this Court ventured down this road that inexorably will lead to the elimination of peremptory strikes".

On its sixth attempt, the state of MS convicted Flowers and sentenced him to death.

Justice Thomas - who is the court's only African-American justice - pointed out that the defence had moreover old peremptory strikes to expend doable white jurors. "A seventh trial could well be unprecedented, and fully unwarranted given both the flimsiness of the evidence in opposition to him and the long path of misconduct that has kept him wrongfully incarcerated all these years".

The US Supreme Court has quashed the conviction of a black loss of life row inmate in MS since the prosecution excluded black jurors. Three of the victims were white. Two trials with more Black people on the jury ended in mistrials.

Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law civil rights group, said the ruling should "sound an alarm" for prosecutors who engage in racial discrimination during jury selection.

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The decision was the latest of several in recent years in which the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of individual criminal defendants on race-related issues.

Flowers' case is anomalous only because of the number of times he was tried by the same prosecutor and the prosecutor's repeated misconduct. Now, that same prosecutor must decide whether to try Flowers a seventh time. The court noted that the lack of black jurors was unconstitutional.

But Thomas doesn't just disagree with the majority ruling that prosecutors unconstitutionally struck potential jurors based on their race - he disagrees with Batson altogether.

Flowers is now on death row.

Evans said he remained confident of Flowers guilt but hadn't decided on retrial, according to American Public Media.

If you listened to the second season of American Public Media's In the Dark and are a thinking person with a functioning soul, you were undoubtedly appalled at the treatment of Curtis Flowers by the MS legal system. If concerns are raised by one side, the court has said, opposing lawyers must provide a legitimate non-discriminatory explanation for striking a juror. Justice Thomas, I understand, wrote the opinion.

Vegetation' attorney Sheri Lynn Johnson known as the resolution a "victory for each person" and told the order of MS to let the case bound.

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