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How a podcast helped get Curtis Flowers’s conviction overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court

How a podcast helped get Curtis Flowers’s conviction overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court
[Photo: OhBillyBoy/Pixabay]

If you listened to the second season of American Public Media’s In the Dark and are a thinking person with a functioning soul, you were undoubtedly appalled at the treatment of Curtis Flowers by the Mississippi legal system. It turns out, the U.S. Supreme Court agrees, announcing today that it is reversing Flowers’s murder conviction and throwing out his death sentence. Again.

Flowers, who is black, has been tried six times on murder charges, and each time prosecutors have worked to keep African Americans off the jury. (Twice, the jury was unable to reach a verdict.) In Flowers’s sixth trial, the one that the Supreme Court has now overturned, the jury was made up of 11 whites and one African American. District Attorney Doug Evans struck five black prospective jurors. The justices held 7-2 that the removal of black prospective jurors violated Flowers’s rights. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the court’s majority opinion, while Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch dissented.

Of course, listeners of In the Dark know that this is familiar territory for Flowers. As mentioned, Flowers has been tried six times for the same crime, and this is the fourth time his conviction has been reversed. During the long legal process, he has been incarcerated in Parchman Prison for over 22 years. While he may be celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision, he faces the distinct possibility that Evans will try him a seventh time and he will remain in prison until the DA makes that decision.

This is not the first time that a true crime podcast has had an impact in a legal case. (Serial helped get Adnan Syed a new trial, and shows like Teacher’s Pet and Up and Vanished drew attention to cold cases that are now solved.) However, this may be the first time that a U.S. Supreme Court case included reporting from APM Reports. During their work on the show, they uncovered a pattern of racist jury selection by Evans and brought Flowers’s case to national attention.

If the D.A. decides to put Flowers through a seventh trial, Flowers’s legal team may use new evidence found by APM Reports. It’s a new frontier in reporting that shines a light on the dark corners of the legal system.

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