At least change the DA

Those who have some experience in reading the mood of the U.S. Supreme Court came away from the recent hearing on the Curtis Flowers case certain that it’s going to be a slam-dunk reversal of his latest capital murder conviction.

Even the conservative majority on the court expressed grave concerns about the conduct of the district attorney, Doug Evans, who has prosecuted Flowers six times for the 1996 execution-style slaying of four people at Tardy Furniture in Winona.

The accusation against Evans is that he is racially discriminatory in jury selection, that he tries to stack juries with whites, who are more prone to convict black defendants than black jurors and more likely to hand out a death sentence.

In five of the trials of Flowers, a black man accused of killing four people allegedly over a dispute about a couple hundred dollars, Evans exercised 42 times his limited prerogative to excuse jurors without having to state a reason. For 41 of those pre-emptory challenges, including all five strikes in the sixth trial, the jurors were African-American.

Suspicious enough. But then APM Reports, an investigative arm of American Public Media, did exhaustive research into Evans’ career as a prosecutor outside of this highly sensational case. It found that over a 15-year period ending in 2017, he had eliminated blacks from juries at more than four times the rate of whites.

If the conviction of Flowers is thrown out for a fourth time (the other two prosecutions ended in mistrial), and if the reason is again prosecutorial misconduct in jury selection, then Evans needs to recuse himself from any potential future prosecution.

If Evans balks, then the attorney general’s office should seek to have him disqualified from the case and have other prosecutors consider whether there is enough evidence to warrant putting Flowers on trial for a seventh time.

We don’t know whether Flowers is guilty of this horrible crime. There is both incriminating circumstantial evidence against him, and there is tainted evidence, such as jailhouse snitches who later recanted. He has spent 22 years now behind bars, with a death sentence over his head and growing doubt about the fairness of his prosecution for that entire time.

The only way to resolve that doubt, if it can be resolved, may be for someone else to take over.

 

 

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