Curtis Flowers, who was wrongfully incarcerated for 23 years, will receive the state’s maximum compensation of $500,000, Mississippi 5th Circuit Judge George Mitchell ruled Tuesday.
The 50-year-old spent nearly half his life on death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, convicted in the shooting deaths of four people in 1996 at Tardy Furniture Store in Winona where Flowers had been employed until roughly two weeks before the murders.
The victims, including store owner Bertha Tardy, 59, and employees, Robert Golden, 42, Carmen Rigby, 45, and Derrick Stewart, 16, had been shot in the head.
There was very little evidence to go on and no clear motive emerged during the investigation. Some experts indicated there was evidence of more than one person involved in the crime, yet Flowers was the only person charged.
State law allows a person who was wrongfully convicted of a crime to be compensated $50,000 a year for every year incarcerated, with a cap at $500,000. The funds will be distributed at $50,000 annually for the next 10 years.
Flowers was convicted and sentenced to death for the first time in 1997. District Attorney Doug Evans prosecuted that trial and an unprecedented five more trials.
Flowers’ first three trials ended in convictions, which were overturned by the state Supreme Court for prosecutorial misconduct. The fourth and fifth trials ended in mistrials. Flowers was convicted again in 2010 at his sixth trial. That conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019.
In November 2019, Evans was sued in federal court by the Attala County branch of the NAACP and others for his alleged discriminatory acts. The lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice and is going through the appeals process.
The Supreme Court justices found that Evans worked to prevent Black people from serving as jurors during selection.
In 2020, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said the state would not try the case a seventh time, leaving Flowers a free man.
Flowers’ legal team, which includes civil rights attorney Rob McDuff, will receive $50,000 for helping Flowers receive the compensation.