04 Sep AG’s Decision to Dismiss Charges Against Curtis Flowers Marks Huge Victory, Offers Key Opportunity
For Immediate Release
September 4, 2020
Contact: Robert B. McDuff, Director of the George Riley Impact Litigation Initiative, Mississippi Center for Justice, firstname.lastname@example.org, 601-259-8484
Mississippi – Today, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch dismissed capital murder charges against Curtis Flowers, who underwent an unprecedented series of six trials for the allegations. The decision comes more than 23 years after his initial arrest in the small town of Winona, Mississippi.
“This is a monumental victory. Over the past year, the Mississippi Center for Justice represented Curtis Flowers and helped to bring about a favorable conclusion of this tragic case. Today the burden of further injustice has been lifted from Mr. Flowers, but fair treatment in our criminal justice system should never require the extraordinary resources behind this long-delayed outcome,” said Vangela M. Wade, the President and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice.
Rob McDuff, director of MCJ’s George Riley Impact Litigation Project, joined the Flowers defense team after the United States Supreme Court reversed the conviction and death sentence in Flowers’ sixth trial and sent the case back to the trial court in Montgomery County, Mississippi for a potential seventh trial. Attorney Henderson Hill of Charlotte, NC co-counseled the case with McDuff at the trial court. After the case returned to the trial court, they filed a motion for bail, a motion to dismiss the charges, and a motion to recuse the prosecutor. A bail hearing was held on December 16, 2019, and Judge Loper granted bail at the conclusion of the hearing. Flowers was released that afternoon after 23 years in prison.
Soon after, District Attorney Doug Evans withdrew from the case and the office of Attorney General Fitch was appointed in his place. At the request of the Flowers defense team, Fitch’s office conducted an extensive review of the case over several months and then filed the motion asking Judge Loper to dismiss the charges.
McDuff and Hill worked with the legal team that had represented Flowers at various stages during the nine-year battle to reverse his 2010 conviction and death sentence in the sixth trial. This included lawyers from the Cornell Law School Capital Punishment Clinic, the Mississippi Innocence Project, and the Hogan Lovells law firm. National attention on the Flowers case was sparked by the extraordinary investigative reporting at American Public Media for the In the Dark podcast which uncovered numerous witness recantations and an alternative suspect.
“This is a perfect time to commit to a deeper fight against racism in our criminal justice system,” continued President Wade. “As a former prosecutor, I am acutely aware of the power wielded by the District Attorney in charging decisions, bail, plea bargaining, trial, and sentencing. Mississippi must reform our criminal justice system from the bottom up, starting with rooting out racial bias in prosecutorial discretion. A number of recommendations appear in last month’s report by the Mississippi Advisory Committee to the U. S. Civil Rights Commission, ‘Prosecutorial Discretion and Civil Rights in Mississippi.’”
Mississippi Center for Justice is a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice. Supported and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.