Curtis Flowers case: Prosecutors seek to bar death row inmate from attending mother’s funeral

Published 3:29 pm Friday, July 20, 2018

From Mississippi Today

JACKSON — Death row prisoner Curtis Flowers should not be allowed to attend his mother’s funeral this weekend, according to Attorney General Jim Hood and the district attorney who has tried Flowers six times for the same crime.

Lola Flowers died July 14 following complications of surgery. Three days later, her son, Curtis Flowers, filed an emergency motion with the Montgomery County circuit court asking a judge to order the Mississippi Department of Corrections to transport him to his mother’s viewing Friday afternoon and funeral Saturday morning in his hometown, Winona. Curtis Flowers offered to pay for transportation costs, court documents show.

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Flowers, now 48, is on death row at Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, where he has been held for the majority of the past two decades.

Hood’s office asked the court to deny Flowers’ request on Thursday.

“This motion does not involve transportation of Flowers to the Court for any proceedings related to his criminal case,” the response to Flowers’ request states. “Rather, this is purely an administrative matter for the Mississippi Department of Corrections to solve.”

Grace Fisher, a spokeswoman for the corrections department declined to comment and referred Mississippi Today to court filings. Fisher said that she could not confirm whether Flowers has filed a request for administrative remedy through the department, as the attorneys for the state suggested.

Hood’s office, in its reply, stated that both District Attorney Doug Evans and Montgomery County Sheriff Jerry “Bubba” Nix, Jr. “strongly object” to any requests for emergency leave from Flowers. Hood’s office also stated that MDOC, through conversations with Evans’ office and the victims’ families, determined “heightened safety concerns” for both Flowers and the community at large.

Flowers, who had no prior criminal record, was first convicted and sentenced to death for the 1996 murders of four employees at a furniture store, where he was formerly employed, in downtown Winona. A series of successful appeals over the last two decades, including on grounds that Evans illegally barred African Americans from juries, has resulted in Evans trying Flowers five more times for the murders. Flowers’ sixth conviction is still on appeal.

Flowers’s case garnered national attention following the release of the investigative podcast, “In the Dark,” produced by American Public Media, earlier this year. In the podcast, a team of reporters examine racial discrimination in jury selection, other potential suspects, and other flaws in the 22-year history of the case against Flowers.

APM Reports first reported the death of Lola Flowers on July 14.

“Lola Flowers never gave up hope that Curtis would be exonerated and freed from prison,” wrote Madeleine Baran, lead reporter for “In the Dark,” on APM’s website.

In the emergency motion, Flowers’s lawyers describe his relationship with his mother as “exceptionally close,” adding that the two spoke on the phone “nearly every day.”

Lola Flowers’s funeral will be held Saturday morning at the Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church in Winona.