A judge ruled on Tuesday that the state of Mississippi must pay the maximum compensation of $500,000 to Curtis Flowers, a Black man who was wrongfully convicted in the 1996 murder of four people, and spent nearly 23 behind bars, USA TODAY reports. Flowers will receive $50,000 over the next 10 years. An additional $50,000 will be given to cover lawyer fees.
Flowers was 26 years old when he was arrested for the fatal shooting of four people inside the Tardy Furniture Store in Winona, Mississippi. Flowers last worked at the store about two weeks prior to the slayings of shop owner Bertha Tardy, 59, and employees, Robert Golden, 42, Carmen Rigby, 45, and Derrick Stewart, 16.
Flowers was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death in his first trial in 1997 despite a lack of evidence and a clear motive. District Attorney Doug Evans prosecuted that trial, as well as five others. The first three convictions were overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court for prosecutorial misconduct. A fourth and fifth ended in mistrials, and the sixth was one of three cases taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court where the lower courts were asked to review instances of racial bias in the jury selection process, specifically whether Evans worked to prevent Black people from serving as jurors in Flowers’ trial.
Before trying Flowers for a seventh time, Evans recused himself. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced in 2020 that the state would not move forward with another trial against the man who had been held on death row for over 20 years. Flowers was released on bail in September, and the charges against him were dropped.
The Attala County branch of the NAACP filed a lawsuit against Evans for alleged discriminatory practices, but it was dismissed.