The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the murder conviction of Curtis Flowers, a black man who was tried six times for the same crimes, two months after the US Supreme Court ruled that the white prosecutor , unconstitutionally maintained blacks. outside the jury.
Flowers, 49, was charged with the murder of four people in a furniture store in Winona in 1996. The six lawsuits resulted in errors or convictions that were overturned on appeal.
The case sparked a national conversation about race in the criminal justice system after a podcast investigated prosecutor Doug Evans' efforts for decades to convict Mr Flowers.
The decision of the Mississippi Supreme Court was expected Thursday after the United States Supreme Court ruled in June that Evans violated the Constitution in Flowers's sixth lawsuit involving black jurors. In the six suits for Mr. Flowers, 61 of the 72 jurors were white.
Rob McDuff, Flowers's lawyer, called Thursday's decision a "routine procedural step".
The case will now be remitted to a lower court and prosecutors will have to decide whether they wish to judge Mr Flowers for the seventh time.
"We will ask the judge to dismiss the case if the prosecutor refuses," McDuff said.
Mr. Evans could not be immediately reached for a comment on Thursday night.
Mr McDuff added that he would seek bail from Mr Flowers, who has been held in a state prison for 22 years.
Journalists from APM Reports, a division of American Public Media, presented Mr. Flowers' case last year in the "In the Dark" podcast.
Podcast journalists dug holes in the forensic evidence that prosecutors asked and asked about an informant who allegedly told Mr. Flowers that he had confessed. In February, the podcast has won a George Polk Award, a prestigious journalism award, for his work on the case.
The United States Supreme Court noted in June that Mr Flowers's first two convictions had been quashed for failing prosecutors. His third conviction was overturned after the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Evans discriminated against black jurors when selecting jurors.
The fourth lawsuit is over in a lawsuit for annulment. In the four trials that took place between 1997 and 2007, Mr. Evans used his 36 peremptory challenges to bring down black jurors.
"The actions of the state in the first four trials are bound to influence our assessment of the state's intention to participate in Flowers's sixth lawsuit," Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote in his majority opinion. "We can not ignore this story."
The fifth lawsuit also resulted in a lawsuit for annulment because of a suspended jury. The jury of the sixth trial, consisting of a black juror and 11 white jurors, convicted Mr Flowers in 2010 and sentenced him to death. The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence.
But Judge Kavanaugh said Mr. Evans violated the Constitution.
The US Supreme Court noted that during the selection of the jury, Mr. Evans averaged 29 questions to black jurors, while asking the eleven white jurors who had finally sat down to ask an average of one question. each.
"Equal justice in law requires a criminal trial that is free from racial discrimination in the jury selection process," Justice Kavanaugh wrote.
Mr. Evans stated that he excluded black prospective jurors for various reasons, including knowing that they knew Mr. Flowers' witnesses or family members, had some scruples about applying the death penalty, or had arrived late. to the selection of jurors.