It is hard to imagine anyone more worthy of recognition as MCJ Champions of Justice than Barbara and David Lipman. Their journey seeking justice in Mississippi began 50 years ago, and their commitment to advancing racial and economic justice for all Mississippians has never waned.
Barbara and David moved to Mississippi as newlyweds in 1970. David was fresh out of law school, but he was soon litigating path-breaking civil rights cases that advanced voting rights, school desegregation, equalization of city services, prison reform, and more. Barbara became the first white teacher of the children of Black sharecroppers in Money, Mississippi, where, just 15 years earlier, Emmett Till’s fateful encounter at Bryant Grocery Store sparked the Civil Rights Movement.
Their respective contributions as civil rights lawyer and educator, and as founders of organizations to alleviate the inhumane and unconstitutional treatment of prisoners, left an indelible mark. And when they eventually moved away from Mississippi, their hearts stayed. As founding donors of the Mississippi Center for Justice in 2003, and as generous and tireless supporters ever since, Barbara and David have been essential players in shaping the MCJ we know today.
Stanley “Rip” Daniels has carved out careers in broadcast media, construction, and real estate, fired by a vision of independence and self-determination. As owner of WJZD radio, Rip hosts, “It’s a New Day,” a rich and lively dialog with listeners on local and national events and has founded the American Blues Network satellite radio channel. The Almanett Hotel and Bistro, his boutique hotel in downtown Gulfport, is an elegant addition to Mississippi Coast tourism that bears the name of his grandmother.
Daniels also has been a powerful activist for equal justice and dignity and for community preservation through publicity on a wide range of racial justice issues. For years he pressed county officials to remove the Confederate flag from a public display on the beach until finally doing the job himself. He has championed and personally invested in environmental and historical preservation in the Turkey Creek community, settled originally by families of emancipated slaves from whom he descended.
After Curtis Flowers’ unprecedented sixth trial in Winona, Mississippi ended in a guilty verdict and death sentence in 2010, the outlook was grim. Although the Mississippi Supreme Court had reversed the guilty verdicts and death sentences in the first three trials, and the next two ended in mistrials, the chances for a fourth reversal were slim. But Sheri Johnson and Keir Weyble of Cornell Law School took the appeal and waged a lengthy battle up and down the appellate ladder, ultimately winning a reversal from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 due to what it called the prosecutor’s “relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of black individuals” over the course of the trials.
In 2015, in the midst of that appeal, Jonathan Abram, Katie Ali, David Maxwell, former associate Ben Lewis, paralegal Ashley Johnson, and a number of others from the Hogan Lovells law firm, and Tucker Carrington of the Mississippi Innocence Project, also began representing Flowers in order to re-investigate the case and file a lengthy post-conviction petition as the next legal step in the event the appeal was unsuccessful.
After the case was sent back in 2019 for a potential seventh trial, Rob McDuff of MCJ and Henderson Hill of Charlotte, NC were recruited to represent Flowers in the trial court. Working with the entire team, they successfully pursued a motion for bail, leading to Flowers’ release in December 2019 after 23 years in prison, and later persuaded Mississippi’s Attorney General to dismiss all charges in September 2020, bringing this historic and tragic case to a conclusion.
MCJ also recognizes the extensive efforts of the various attorneys who represented Curtis Flowers in the previous trials and appeals including: Ray Charles Carter, Alison Steiner, Andre DeGruy, Stacy Ferraro, the late Chokwe Lumumba, Harvey Freelon, Jim Craig, Keith Ball, and David Voisin.