- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2019

The Supreme Court threw out a conviction for a Mississippi man Friday and ordered a do-over, this time absent any discriminatory intent by the state to eliminate black jurors.

The 7-2 decision held the state prosecutor intentionally struck African American jurors when prosecuting Curtis Flowers, a black man, for the alleged murders of four people in Winona, Mississippi, in 1996. Three of the victims were white.

“Equal justice under law requires a criminal trial free of racial discrimination in the jury selection process,” Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote for the court.

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It was the sixth time the defendant had been tried. His first three trials ended in convictions but were subsequently overturned. The fourth and fifth trials ended in hung juries.

The court took issue with the state striking Carolyn Wright, a prospective black juror. The prosecution said she worked with the defendant’s father and knew several of the witnesses participating in the trial.

But the Supreme Court said three white prospective jurors also knew individuals involved in the case and had relationships with the defendant’s family; however, the prosecution never probed them about their connections.

Justice Clarence Thomas, the high court’s only black jurist, and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch dissented from the court’s ruling, saying the defendant had a fair trial and the court’s majority shouldn’t have heard his appeal.

“The court today does not dispute that the evidence was sufficient to convict Flowers or that he was tried by an impartial jury,” Justice Thomas wrote.

He added the “decision distorts the record of this case, eviscerates our standard of review, and vacates four murder convictions because the state struck a juror who would have been stricken by any competent attorney.”

The defendant will remain in prison until the state decides whether to try him again for a seventh time.

Sheri Lynn Johnson, the attorney for Mr. Flowers, said it’s a “travesty” he’s already endured six trials and more than two decades on death row.

“A seventh trial would be unprecedented, and completely unwarranted given both the flimsiness of the evidence against him and the long trail of misconduct that has kept him wrongfully incarcerated all these years,” Ms. Johnson said.

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