In The Dark 220

Curtis Flowers, the man whose 23-year prison odyssey became the basis of the acclaimed APM Reports investigative podcast In the Dark, has filed a lawsuit against the district attorney and three investigators for their prosecution of him six times, alleging prosecutorial misconduct. 

Flowers had his 2010 verdict overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2019 after attention to his case came in the podcast. The state of Mississippi dropped the charges against Flowers one year ago, bringing to a close the death-row case. 

Flowers, who was falsely accused of killing four people in a furniture store in Winona, MS in 1996, was forced to undergo six trials for capital murder and 23 years in prison before he was finally exonerated last year. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court said his constitutional rights had been violated since the district attorney in the case intentionally kept African-Americans off Flowers’ jury. In December 2019, Flowers was released on bail, leaving prison for the first time in more than two decades.

The lawsuit alleges Montgomery County (MS) District Attorney Doug Evans and the investigators engaged in misconduct, including "pressuring witnesses to fabricate claims about seeing Mr. Flowers in particular locations on the day of the murders.” The 28-page suit also claims the D-A’s office ignored other possible suspects.

Earlier this year a judge ordered the state of Mississippi to pay Flowers $500,000 over the next ten years, the most allowed under state law. But the ruling does not prevent Flowers from suing the district attorney or his investors according to his attorneys.

“Curtis Flowers never should have been charged,” said attorney Rob McDuff of the Mississippi Center for Justice. “The murders were clearly the work of professional criminals. Curtis Flowers was 26 years old with no criminal record and nothing in his history to suggest he would commit a crime like this. The prosecution was tainted throughout by racial discrimination and repeated misconduct. This lawsuit seeks accountability for that misconduct.”

The case presented to the Supreme Court included reporting from APM Reports, which uncovered a pattern of racist jury selection by District Attorney Doug Evans. As laid out by host Madeleine Baran and senior producer Samara Freemark in the second season of the In the Dark podcast, Flowers has been through a 23-year legal odyssey of convictions, appeals and repeated trials. The 2010 trial that resulted in the case that went before the Supreme Court was his sixth. In each of the first four trials, Evans used all three-dozen of his peremptory challenges to block African-Americans as potential jurors.

American Public Media says In the Dark’s second season has been downloaded 38.5 million times. Combined with its first season and a limited-run series this summer reporting about the pandemic, In the Dark has been downloaded 71.4 million times.

In the Dark became the first to receive a George Polk Award. It has also won a 2020 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award, 2020 American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award, 2020 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and 2019 Peabody Award. For her work on the podcast’s second season, Baran was named the Burton Award’s 2019 Outstanding Journalist in Law.

Flowers’ ordeal was also featured on an episode on “60 Minutes” that focused on Flowers’ innocence and the relentless pursuit of him by the prosecutor, District Attorney Doug Evans.