Citing racial bias, US high court tosses black man's murder conviction

Dale Gerstenslager  AP FILE
Curtis Giovanni Flowers left listens to testimony in his third capital murder trial in Winona Miss. Feb. 6 2004

A black MS inmate faces a possible seventh trial after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Friday that a prosecutor had displayed racial bias in jury selection.

In it, he condemned white prosecutor Doug Evans for blocking dozens of black jurors at all of Flowers' trials. "We can not ignore that history".

Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

Justice Thomas - who is the court's only African-American justice - pointed out that the defence had also used peremptory strikes to remove potential white jurors.

He was sentenced to death for the murders of four people inside a furniture store in Winona, Mississippi, in 1996.

Kavanaugh said the unusual history of the case; the prosecutor's documented effort to keep black people off the juries; and, "dramatically disparate questioning of black and white prospective jurors" all pointed to discrimination.

But deciding whether a potential juror was struck is a fact-specific inquiry.

He added: "If the court's opinion today has a redeeming quality, it is this: The state is perfectly free to convict Curtis Flowers again". If concerns are raised by one facet, the court has said, opposing attorneys must present a sound non-discriminatory clarification for inserting a juror.

Flowers was arrested several months after the murders, when two witnesses said they saw him near the scene of the crime. "We hope that the State of MS will finally disavow Doug Evans' misconduct, decline to pursue yet another trial, and set Mr. Flowers free".

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This Aug. 3, 2017 listing supplied by Mississippi Division of Corrections reveals Curtis Vegetation, who's homicide case has long gone to trial six times.

Flowers has been in custody since 1996. Three of those trials ended in convictions that were reversed on appeal while one resulted in a mistrial. While the court sided with Flowers, its ruling does not preclude MS from putting him on trial for a seventh time.

Store owner Bertha Tardy, 59, deliveryman Robert Golden, 42, part-time employee Derrick Stewart, 16, and bookkeeper Carmen Rigby, 45, were shot and killed at the Tardy Furniture Store.

Kavanaugh said the Supreme Court wasn't breaking new ground in the case.

In the course of selecting a jury, lawyers can excuse a juror merely because of a suspicion that a particular person would vote against their client.

Batson provides that peremptory strikes - which allow lawyers to boot prospective jurors for any reason at all - can not be used to exclude people based on race.

While prosecutors and defense lawyers are allowed to use what are called peremptory challenges to eliminate potential jurors they are not allowed to do so on the basis of race.

Vegetation had worked on the retailer, however had lately been fired. A week earlier, Kavanaugh sided with liberals in a 5-4 decision that he wrote, ruling that Apple could be sued by iPhone owners over high prices in their App Store. District Attorney Doug Evans struck five other African-Americans from the jury pool in the process. "The State tried to strike all 36".

In the sixth trial prosecutors disallowed five of six black jurors, which Vegetation argued became as soon as discriminatory. It ranged from misleading the jury about evidence that did not exist to striking prospective jurors based on race. A jailhouse informant who claimed Flowers had confessed to him recanted in recorded telephone conversations with American Public Media's "In the Dark" podcast. The protection attorneys said the Mississippi Supreme Court docket failed to well apply U.S. Supreme Court docket precedent in determining whether folk occupy been unconstitutionally kept off a jury on the foundation of bustle.

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