The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the conviction of a Black man on death row Thursday because a state prosecutor “repeatedly kicked Black people off the jury each time he was tried for the same murders,” NBC reports
“Equal justice under law requires a criminal trial free of racial discrimination in the jury selection process,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the court’s 7-2 decision.
Curtis Flowers was tried six times for the 1996 murder of four furniture store employees in Winona, Mississippi, NBC reports.
Of the five previous trials, two ended in mistrials, one was thrown out over evidence questions. The other two trials ended after state courts determined that prosecutor Doug Evans intentionally excluded potential jurors on the basis of their race.
In the six trials combined, Kavanaugh said that the prosecutor “moved to strike 41 of the 42 Black prospective jurors and “engaged in dramatically disparate questioning of Black and white prospective jurors.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, the only Black justice on the Court, and one of two justices to dissent, claimed it was unfair to infringe upon how lawyers strike jurors from the pool in a misguided attempt to address racism, NPR reports
“The majority’s opinion is so manifestly incorrect that I must proceed to the merits,” Thomas wrote. “Flowers presented no evidence whatsoever of purposeful race discrimination by the State in selecting the jury during the trial below.”
Flowers has spent 22 years on death row in Mississippi, and if Thomas has his way, he’ll remain in prison for the rest of his life.
“If the Court’s opinion today has a redeeming quality, it is this: The State is perfectly free to convict Curtis Flowers again,” Thomas wrote. “Otherwise, the opinion distorts our legal standards, ignores the record, and reflects utter disrespect for the careful analysis of the Mississippi courts. Any competent prosecutor would have exercised the same strikes as the State did in this trial. And although the Court’s opinion might boost its self-esteem, it also needlessly prolongs the suffering of four victims’ families. I respectfully dissent.”