Curtis Flowers: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Curtis Flowers

Photo Courtesy of Mississippi Department of Corrections

Curtis Flowers, 49, is an African-American man from Winona, Mississippi, who has been tried six times for the shooting deaths of four people in a Tardy furniture store in 1996. His case received national attention after it was covered in season two of the In The Dark podcast.

A little after 9:00 AM on July 16th, 1996, Tardy Furniture employee Sam Jones received a call from his boss asking him to go into work. When Sam arrived at work, he saw that all of the lights were on but the employees seemed to be missing. He soon discovered that all 4 employees had been shot in the back of the head, execution style, and somebody had stolen $300 from the register.

The crime had no witnesses and went unsolved for months until police charged Curtis Flowers with the murders. He had briefly worked at the store and been fired when he tried to transport a truck full of batteries and failed to secure the load when he drove off, smashing them all. District Attorney Doug Evans said Flowers was motivated by revenge.

Curtis Flowers was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 1997, 1999, and 2004 with each case being overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court. The higher courts found evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and racial discrimination during the juror selection process.

Flowers Rulingthe mississippi supreme court is upholding the conviction and death sentence of curtis flowers for the 1996 murders of 4 winona furniture store workers.2017-11-02T22:12:05.000Z

Specifically, they said District Attorney Doug Evans had repeatedly broken the rules. They ruled that he misstated the facts, asked improper questions not in good faith, and violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by striking most Black people off the jury.

He was tried again in 2007 and 2008 but both trials resulted in hung juries. Finally, he was tried and convicted in 2010 and once again sentenced to death. His 2010 conviction was appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States where it was overturned on Friday. The Supreme Court found that “the State’s relentless, determined effort to rid the jury of black individuals strongly suggests that the State wanted to try Flowers before a jury with as few black jurors as possible, and ideally before an all-white jury.”

The In The Dark podcast covered the case in extensive detail. The podcast’s popularity may have helped Flowers’ case get to the supreme court.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. His Friends Describe Him As “Laid Back”

Supreme Court justices say they're disturbed by prosecution of Curtis FlowersThe Supreme Court is weighing the fate of Curtis Flowers, a man sitting on death row in Mississippi. He's been tried six times for quadruple murder, but has maintained his innocence throughout. The Supreme Court has been clear: you cannot remove people from juries based on race. But defense attorneys say that happened to Flowers in six different trials. The first five were overturned or ended in mistrial. Jan Crawford reports. Watch "CBS This Morning" HERE: http://bit.ly/1T88yAR Download the CBS News app on iOS HERE: https://apple.co/1tRNnUy Download the CBS News app on Android HERE: https://bit.ly/1IcphuX Like "CBS This Morning" on Facebook HERE: http://on.fb.me/1LhtdvI Follow "CBS This Morning" on Twitter HERE: http://bit.ly/1Xj5W3p Follow "CBS This Morning" on Instagram HERE: http://bit.ly/1Q7NGnY Get new episodes of shows you love across devices the next day, stream local news live, and watch full seasons of CBS fan favorites anytime, anywhere with CBS All Access. Try it free! http://bit.ly/1OQA29B Delivered by Norah O’Donnell, Gayle King, John Dickerson, and Bianna Golodryga, "CBS This Morning" offers a thoughtful, substantive and insightful source of news and information to a daily audience of 3 million viewers. The Emmy Award-winning broadcast presents a mix of daily news, coverage of developing stories of national and global significance, and interviews with leading figures in politics, business and entertainment. Check local listings for "CBS This Morning" broadcast times.2019-03-21T12:19:37.000Z

According to his close friends who spoke to the In The Dark podcast, prior to the murder Flowers spent a majority of his time hanging out with his five siblings and his cousins and uncles. Their favorite activities included fishing or just cruising around town.

Friends say Curtis wasn’t a motivated or ambitious person. He didn’t have any plans for life and had a very laid back demeanor. “He was just always very laid back. You know, smiling, laughing, talking, cordial.” said his friend Michelle Milner, “I’ve never seen him, you know, be angry or upset.”


2. He’s a Talented Gospel Singer

Curtis Flowers singsThis video is the only known recording of Curtis Flowers. It is undated, but Curtis looks to be in his early 20s. He's singing the lead for The Unionaires, a group he and his father belonged to. Before prison, Curtis sang in a gospel group on most Sundays. Learn more: https://www.apmreports.org/story/2018/05/01/in-the-dark-s2e2 By all accounts, singing was Curtis' favorite pastime. Some friends remember gospel as just about the only thing Curtis ever talked about. His love of singing likely came from his religious upbringing and his father, Archie, who's been singing in gospel groups for about 40 years.2018-05-01T07:21:18.000Z

Curtis was the lead singer in his Father’s traveling gospel group. They would travel to different local churches to perform.

It was his only hobby and Flowers became obsessed with it. He would talk about it constantly to anybody that would listen. “You know, it was a lot of attention for him and he liked it. He dated the first cousin of my best friend. She said that he was boring because he always just wanted to talk about singing. That’s all he wanted to talk about was singing.” Michelle Milner explained on the In The Dark podcast.


3. He Was Living with His Girlfriend and Her Son and Moved to Texas After the Murders

Wrong Man | The Case of Curtis Flowers | STARZOn the morning of July 16, 1996, owner Bertha Tardy and three of her employees were murdered execution-style inside her furniture store in the quiet town of Winona, Mississippi. Twenty-six-year-old Curtis Flowers became a suspect almost immediately when investigators learned that he’d been fired from the store days earlier. Flowers was arrested and went on to become one of the most tried defendants in history with the same District Attorney presiding for 21 years over a total of six trials and overturned verdicts. Now he faces a possible 7th trial while he continues to maintain his innocence. #STARZ #WrongMan Subscribe to the STARZ YouTube Channel for more documentaries: http://bit.ly/1kalhP0 Get your free trial of the STARZ app: http://starz.tv/WatchSTARZYT Like STARZ on Facebook: http://starz.tv/STARZFacebookYT Follow STARZ on Twitter: http://starz.tv/STARZTwitterYT Follow STARZ on Instagram: http://starz.tv/STARZInstagramYT Visit STARZ on YouTube: http://bit.ly/1mkHKgZ In Wrong Man, a series by award-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger, a team of esteemed experts re-investigate the cases of three inmates who have been locked up for decades and claim they're innocent.2018-07-01T16:00:00.000Z

At the time of the murders, Flowers was living in Winona with his girlfriend and her kids in a house two blocks from his parents. He didn’t have a full-time job but worked part-time at Tardy Furniture. A few months after the murders, Curtis and his girlfriend moved to Plano, Texas to live with his sister. He worked at the local Kroger grocery store and would regularly make the seven-hour drive home to Winona to spend time with his parents.


4. He Graduated Last in His Class in High School

According to his friends and family, Flowers was not an ambitious or motivated person. He graduated last in his class in high school. He’s pictured in his high school yearbook wearing a suit and Black bowtie.

5. Some People Still Think He’s Guilty

Despite the trials being overturned multiple times, Randy Stewart, the father of victim Derrick “Bobo” Stewart, still thinks Flowers is guilty. “Curtis Giovanni Flowers murdered those four people. There’s no doubt in my mind. I don’t care how many choirs he sang or nothing. I believe in tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye. And I think he needs to fry in hell, where he’s going.”

The In The Dark podcast interviewed several jurors from his previous trials that said the evidence pointed to Flowers as the killer. The evidence showed that he was guilty.” said an unnamed juror. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he did it. It’s pretty cut and dry.”

Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented in the case. Thomas wrote that the case should have never been reviewed by the court and that “Any appearance that this Court gives closer scrutiny to cases with significant media attention will only exacerbate these problems and undermine the fairness of criminal trials,”