The Flowers case in Black and White

Picture1The Greenwood Commonwealth has a reasonably thorough article on the Attorney General’s decision to drop the perjury charges against James Bibbs.  

Rod McDuff, Mr. Bibbs’ attorney, told the Commonwealth that “There really wasn’t any evidence to support the charge of perjury.  The attorney general’s office examined this very carefully. They agreed to meet with me to discuss the evidence. They then took some additional time to thoroughly analyze the case, and they ended up making the right decision.”

One reader was incensed to learn that the fourth jury to hear the case against Curtis Flowers “divided along racial lines” and thus “could not reach a verdict”. 

“What a sad commentary,” the reader exclaimed, “that people may actually be protecting a murderer for no other reason than race.  Anyone who would turn a blind eye to the facts of a case, or deny justice based on race should be jailed themselves. It’s a shame that some folks are fine with having an “OJ” walking around free in Montgomery County. Those innocent people were brutally murdered, and there will come a day that God will hold not only the murderer accountable, but anyone who knowingly protected him afterward by ignoring their civic duty.”

This comment makes two logical errors that have made it possible for DA Doug Evans to sell a pathetically weak case to white jurors.  First, he assumes that all the ideological bias in Winona lives on the black side of the tracks.  It has never occurred to this person that the judgment of white folks might also be subjective.  Secondly, he jumps from the undeniable fact that “innocent people were brutally murdered” to the conclusion that Curtis Flowers pulled the trigger.

This error in reasoning is widespread and works powerfully to the advantage of prosecutors.  The more violent, senseless and repulsive the crime the more the human heart cries out of justice.  Believing that the authorities nailed the right guy feels good.  The thought that an innocent man may be convicted feels bad.  A pro-prosecution bias emerges from the simple fact that people like feeling good and hate feeling bad.  

It isn’t easy to care about due process and the sufficiency of the evidence when people are mourning a tragic loss.  Every time Curtis Flowers goes to trial ancient wounds are ripped open and the desire for revenge trumps concerns about fair and impartial justice.

It is easy to argue that if Curtis Flowers must be guilty because the authorities have taken him to trial so many times.  But why, if guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, has the state been unable to nail down a final conviction?

White folks think they know the answer–the niggers is just protecting one of their own. 

(By the way, I have never seen the point of filling in one or more letters in nasty words with asterisks or nonesense symbols, as in n*****s, or f*ck.  “Nigger” IS an ugly word, but I don’t see how plugging in a few asterisks softens the blow.  Nor am I sure the blow should be softened.)

The Flowers case has divided Winona along racial lines and the division appears to be growing.  Although I have accused Judge Joey Loper of pitching a hissy fit in the courtroom when he told Doug Evans to prosecute James Bibbs for perjury, there was some method to the jurist’s temporary madness.  The idea was to intimidate black residents into not showing up for jury duty or stating that they couldn’t be objective jurors.

A second comment at the end of the Greenwood Commonwealth article reflects the passion this case has evoked in the black community.

Anyone who would send a person to the death chamber based on race should also be jailed. Carroll and Montgomery County jurors have sent innocent people to death chairs and chambers based on race in the past. Research the history of the criminal justice system out there if you think that I am lying.  That community should exercise more caution before condemning a person to die.  By the way, what do the trumped up charges against Mr. Bibbs suggest to you? The man’s life that was otherwise honorable has been wrecked by a judge who wants nothing less than another Carroll County Massacre.

The “history of the criminal justice system,” is an important issue for black people in the Mississippi Delta.  It’s a history white folks are desperate to forget.