A death row inmate maintains his innocence in the face of six deeply flawed trials
On July 30th, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) held hearings on Capitol Hill entitled “A Conversation on Race and Justice in America” in response to the intense national debate that has resulted from the killing of Trayvon Martin. Racial profiling – “a secret hiding in public,” according to panelist Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center – was discussed, as were Stand Your Ground laws. Less attention was paid to the perilous way the legal system treats some African-Americans who end up in it, especially those with neither the money nor the means to defend themselves.
Consider Curtis Flowers. Today, he sits on Mississippi’s death row, where he has been for 16 years. Tried six times on the same murder charges – the only known person in American history to endure that fate – he has never hedged in proclaiming his innocence, even refusing plea bargains. “I’m not going to say I killed someone when I didn’t,” he said in 2010. “I would rather be executed and go to Heaven and know I did the right thing than to be in this world if I have to admit to something I didn’t do.”
Flowers’ ordeal began in July 1996 on the morning Bertha Tardy and three of her employees were killed execution-style in her furniture store in Winona, Mississippi. They were shot with such precision that it took only five bullets to kill four people. Two weeks earlier, Flowers worked for Tardy for about three days. He said he quit; others said he was fired. Regardless, Doug Evans, the local district attorney, zeroed in on Flowers as a disgruntled employee and made him the prime suspect. (more…)