Majority White Jury in Flowers Trial | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Majority White Jury in Flowers Trial

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Dr. Alan Bean, executive director of Friends of Justice says the history of racial tension in the Curtis Flowers trial is still apparent today.

The fate of Curtis Flowers, a man on trial for the sixth time, is now in the hands of a jury consisting of 11 whites and one African American in Montgomery County where the racial make up is 54 percent white and 44 percent African American.

Flowers, charged with capital murder for the 1996 shooting of four people at Tardy's Furniture Store in Winona, Miss., is the first person in recent U.S. history to be tried six times for the same crime.

The Mississippi State Supreme Court overturned the first two trials, in which Flowers was found guilty, for procedural misconduct. The Supreme Court also overturned the third trial, citing Montgomery County District Attorney Doug Evans for intentionally excluding black jurors from jury selection. The third and fourth trials both ended in hung juries. If found guilty, Flowers could face the death penalty.

Attorney Rob McDuff said the majority-white jury could be the outcome of the trial's tense racial history. McDuff represented James Bibbs, who Montgomery County Circuit Judge Joseph Loper and District Attorney Doug Evans charged with perjury during the fifth trial in 2008. Bibbs, an African American, was the only juror in favor of acquitting Flowers.

"Some other jurors claimed (Bibbs) had acted improperly and Loper jumped to conclusions and accused Mr. Bibbs in open court of having perjured himself when he answered questions during the jury selection process," McDuff said.

McDufff helped get Loper and Evans recused from the case.

"It was a completely bogus charge. I believe Bibbs was indicted to send a message to future jurors who vote for acquittal," he said, adding: "I can't help but believe that it had an impact. It's really unfortunate that there is only one African American on that jury in a crime where the town is so divided along racial lines."

Dr. Alan Bean, executive director of Friends of Justice, a nonprofit organization that conducts awareness campaigns promoting due process of law, has put together a group of observers to watch the trial. Bean said he watched as the jury pool of African Americans shrank during the three-day selection process.

"White people by-and-large were trying to do everything they could do get on, and black people were trying to everything they could to get off," Bean said. "A lot of people just don't want to go through what Bibbs went through."

During the jury selection process, Bean said that when Evans asked if there was anyone who couldn't sit in judgment of another human being, 11 people raised their hands--nine African Americans and two whites.

Earlier this month, The Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit organization, released a report, "Illegal Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection: A Continuing Legacy." The report finds that jury discrimination have occurred in eight Southern states-- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee despite the United States Supreme Court's 1986 decision in Batson v. Kentucky, limiting racially discriminating use of peremptory strikes in jury selection by requiring lawyers to provide nonracial reasons for those strikes.

Many courts and judges "refusal to apply the decision retroactively has meant that scores of death row prisoners have been executed after convictions and death sentences by all-white juries, which were organized by excluding people of color on the basis of race," the report states.

Witness testimonies for the Flowers case began today. The trial will continue on Saturday and through next week. 



Previous Comments

ID
158166
Comment

Something's awash here. Of all people in a 44% black county, you can't find more than one to sit on the jury of a black man's trial? How can it be a jury of his peers? It'd be one thing if it were the county were 5% black. I'm not saying that all of the jury (or even the majority) have to be black, but I would think that a more fair representation would be in order.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2010-06-11T14:46:11-06:00
ID
158175
Comment

Racist!!!! Always playing the race card. Who's playing it this time? Why can't they just bus in some Mexican-America day laborers? They should be free from prejudice. In fact, that should be standard procedure in all future trials in Mississippi where race may play a factor. Guarantee them green cards if they serve. We can fix racism and the illegal immigration problem at the same time!!!

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-06-11T19:45:18-06:00
ID
158179
Comment

Who's racist? Me?

Author
golden eagle
Date
2010-06-13T18:58:16-06:00
ID
158182
Comment

DrumminD21311, you played the WHOLE DECK on this one - No just "A" Race Card. "Mexican - American day laborers?" What would make a member of this particular ethnic group one of Flowers' peers?

Author
justjess
Date
2010-06-14T10:45:17-06:00
ID
158193
Comment

Uhhhh, I didn't play the race card, it was already played not only in the article, but the story ITSELF revolves around playing race cards. I mean the guy is being tried for the sixth time for the same crime, because of race cards! If I'm getting race cards thrown at me, I'm playing my hand. I won big at the poker table this weekend, so I'm good at cards. I would say the Mexican day laborers would be more his peers than the white folks, if as said in the story there is a lot of animosity between whites and blacks in this town. They are people of "color." Peer seems to be loosely-defined. I assume they would be free of bias, as they are a "neutral" race. Also, I'm not the biggest fan of "peer" trials. If I was put on trial, and the jury consisted of middle-aged conservative southerners, I would not consider those people to be my peers. I would rather a council of judges that held doctorates and knew what they were doing decide my fate, rather than a bunch of morons with high-school diplomas that probably spaced out during the entire trial and thought to themselves during most of the process "What would Jehovah do?," and "Man I miss my guns." Anyways, Mexicans, that's the solution. That's always the solution.

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-06-14T14:24:44-06:00
ID
158194
Comment

DrumminD, you said, "A bunch of morons with high school diplomas" Excuse me, but, itsn't that the last degree that Bill Gates received academically?

Author
justjess
Date
2010-06-14T14:32:38-06:00
ID
158196
Comment

Ok, Bill Gates is allowed on my jury. That's it. I don't think Bill Gates is highly representative of the high school diploma population though. Is that what you tell kids when they tell you they don't want to go to college Jess? "That's a sound decision. Bill gates dropped out of college, and look at how great he's doing!" Man if I only I had dropped out of college, just think about how better off I would be.

Author
DrumminD21311
Date
2010-06-14T15:47:37-06:00

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