JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi prosecutor filed a court order Monday saying he won't be the one to decide whether to try a man a seventh time in a quadruple murder case.
District Attorney Doug Evans recused himself in the case of Curtis Flowers and asked the Mississippi attorney general's office to decide whether to try Flowers again in the death penalty case.
“While I remain confident in both the investigation and the jury verdicts in this matter, I have come to the conclusion that my continued involvement will prevent the families from obtaining justice and for the defendant being held responsible for his actions,” Evans said in the order.
Flowers' attorney, Rob McDuff, said he is pleased Evans is stepping away from the case. McDuff also said he hopes the case will receive an impartial review from Mississippi's new attorney general, who takes office this week.
“As the trial judge indicated when granting bail, the evidence of innocence has become even more clear since the last trial," McDuff said. "There is no reason to continue wasting taxpayer money and putting everyone through a seventh trial. Curtis Flowers is innocent. This misguided prosecution has been plagued from the beginning by misconduct and racial discrimination, and it is time to bring it to an end.”
On Dec. 16, Flowers was released from state custody for the first time in 22 years after a judge granted a request for bail.
Flowers was convicted four times in connection with the 1996 killings in the north Mississippi city of Winona: twice for individual slayings and twice for all four killings. Two other trials involving all four deaths ended in mistrials.
Each of the convictions was overturned, but Flowers had remained in jail because the original murder indictment is still active.
During his sixth trial in 2010, Flowers was sentenced to death. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that conviction in June, finding that prosecutors had shown an unconstitutional pattern of excluding African American jurors in the trials of Flowers, who is black.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Flowers was moved off death row at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and taken to a regional jail in Louisville, Mississippi.
Moments after his release, Flowers told reporters he was thankful to be out and was looking forward to spending time with his family.
“It's been rough,” Flowers said. "Taking it one day at a time, keeping God first — that’s how I got through it.”
Mississippi's current attorney general, Democrat Jim Hood, ends his fourth term Thursday when successor Lynn Fitch, a Republican, is sworn in.
Four people were shot to death on July 16, 1996, in the Tardy Furniture store in Winona. They were owner Bertha Tardy, 59, and three employees: 45-year-old Carmen Rigby, 42-year-old Robert Golden and 16-year-old Derrick "Bobo" Stewart.