(This post is part of a series concerning Curtis Flowers, an innocent man convicted of a horrific crime that has divided a small Mississippi town. Information on the Flowers case can be found here.)
Perjury charges against James Bibbs have been dropped by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office because “The State of Mississippi does not have sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.”
In other words, this case should never have been prosecuted.
Those wanting some background to the Bibbs prosecution can find it here, but I’ll give you a brief synopsis. At the close of Curtis Flowers’ fourth murder trial, five black jurors voted for acquittal and seven white jurors voted to convict. Things went better for the prosecution in trial five. This time there were only three black jurors and the dynamics in the jury room changed considerably. Two black jurors, realizing they weren’t going to win over their white counterparts, offered to vote guilty if the other side would take the death penalty off the table.
James Bibbs was having none of that. The state hadn’t met it’s burden so Bibbs hung the jury.
Judge Joseph Loper was so incensed that he abandoned all pretence of judicial impartiality or common sense. The man threw a hissy fit in the the courtroom in front of God and everybody. First, Loper ordered DA Doug Evans to charge Bibbs with perjury. Second, Loper told Evans to change the Mississippi law that bars the prosecution from asking for a change of venue.
Like they say, you can’t make this stuff up.
The evidence against Bibbs came from a note passed to Judge Loper by a white juror. During voir dire, Bibbs claimed he didn’t know anything about the Flowers case apart from what was in the paper. In the jury room, Bibbs reported that he was in the alley behind the murder scene on the morning of the murder. This supposedly constituted inside knowledge of some kind and proved that Bibbs (in cahoots with the Flowers family) had lied his way onto the jury.
Hats off to attorney Rob McDuff for getting Loper and Evans recused from this case. Cooler heads prevailed as the Attorney General’s Office gradually backed away from a garbage case. Eventually, they stowed the garbage where it belonged.
What does this portend for Mr. Flowers’ sixth trial scheduled for June 7 of 2010? For one thing, black residents will naturally be intimidated by Mr. Bibbs’ frightening scrape with the law. This, of course, is precisely what the prosecution intended. The more black citizens in the jurors box the less likely it is that Doug Evans and friends can post a conviction. By now, they are royally sick of this case but can’t abide the political and social consequences of doing the right thing.
Hopefully, the Attorney General’s decision to punt on the Bibbs case will reassure Winona’s black residents that some folks in the great state of Mississippi aren’t still living in 1963.