Inside innocent man’s torturous 20 years on Death Row and how he was set free

Freed after 23 years on death row, Curtis Flowers may ask if his $500,000 compensation is enough to stop unjust convictions.

From 1996 to 2019, he maintained his innocence as the same prosecutor tried him six times for quadruple murder.

Learning to walk without shackles again, his sisters held his arms as he left Parcham Prison in Mississippi, US, following the Supreme Court's condemnation of Doug Evans for blocking black jurors at Flowers' trials with "discriminatory intent".

In a 7-2 vote to reverse his 2010 conviction for prosecutor misconduct, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote: "The numbers speak loudly.

"Over the course of the first four trials, there were 36 black prospective jurors against whom the State could have exercised a peremptory strike. The State tried to strike all 36."

This week Flowers, now 50, was awarded $500,000 compensation for his wrongful incarceration.

He spent 23 hours a day in a cell awaiting execution and was let out a year after missing his mother's funeral.

Recalling the moment he was sentenced to death, he remembers her telling him: "Keep your head up and don’t give up. I know it’s a lie, you know it’s a lie. Don’t give up."

He was sentenced to death in 2010 for a quadruple shooting inside a furniture store in Winona, Mississippi, in 1996 .

The victims were store owner Bertha Tardy, 59, and three employees, Carmen Rigby, 45, Robert Golden, 42, and Derrick Stewart, 16. 

In jail, Flowers was awoken every morning at 4.30am when a guard slid a breakfast tray into his cell and was given an hour each day to use an outdoor pen.

The rest of the time he spent reading, watching TV and speaking to guards and inmates through his cell's bars.

Describing his former life, he said: "The worstest thing you ever dreamed about. Yeah, like a nightmare cause, you know, you hear all kinds of noise at night, you know. Uh, there are inmates who have just snapped. Some who have lost it. They act up all night. [sic]

"I used to hear guys talk who’d been there 20, 30-some years on death row.

"I hear one guy say, 'It’s not being executed and killed, what bothers me. It’s the anticipation of it because you never know when.'

"Hearing things like that, you know, it just showed me how some people just give up. And I just never stopped fighting."

He says he has been making "little steps" like fishing as he looks forwards to life as a free man.

But during a visit to his family in Winona, Flowers told reporters he wasn't the only inmate in Parcham who shouldn't have been on death row.

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He said: "I believe every case Doug Evans ever handled should be looked into. I truly do. I, I, lord knows I would hate to see this happen to someone else."

Asked if he'd like to say anything to the District Attorney, he said: "No, no I wouldn’t. Some things you don’t – just don’t need to be said, you know? What’s understood is understood. I feel that Doug was wrong. He knew he was wrong. But as far as a conversation, no."

Despite the Supreme Court ruling, Mr Evans has stood by his decisions to prosecute Flowers, "because I knew he was guilty. And the families knew he was guilty. And the families deserve justice.

"Race has nothing to do with our part of what we do. A lot of times race gets thrown in as an excuse if there is no defense."

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