Episodes

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Before the court20190928
Before the court2019092820190929 (WS)

After more than 20 years, Curtis Flowers has the chance to bring his case before the US Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court has the power to overturn Flowers’ conviction.

After six trials and more than 20 years, the case of Curtis Flowers took a stunning turn; the US Supreme Court agreed to hear Flowers' latest appeal of his 2010 conviction for the four murders at Tardy Furniture in Winona, Mississippi. Flowers would have his day before the nation’s highest court. At issue was whether District Attorney Doug Evans tried to keep African-Americans off the jury in Flowers’ most recent trial, a violation of the US Constitution.
In March, oral arguments took place in Washington, D.C. Then, after months of deliberation, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its opinion. In a 7-2 ruling, the justices threw out Flowers’ conviction, finding that the prosecutor in Flowers’ sixth trial had intentionally eliminated prospective jurors who were black. The decision of what happens next — whether to release Flowers or begin a seventh trial — now lies with the same man who has tried him from the beginning: District Attorney Doug Evans.

The US Supreme Court agrees to hear Curtis Flowers\u2019 case

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

Before the Court2019092820190929 (WS)

After more than 20 years, Curtis Flowers has the chance to bring his case before the US Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court has the power to overturn Flowers’ conviction.

After six trials and more than 20 years, the case of Curtis Flowers took a stunning turn; the US Supreme Court agreed to hear Flowers' latest appeal of his 2010 conviction for the four murders at Tardy Furniture in Winona, Mississippi. Flowers would have his day before the nation’s highest court. At issue was whether District Attorney Doug Evans tried to keep African-Americans off the jury in Flowers’ most recent trial, a violation of the US Constitution.
In March, oral arguments took place in Washington, D.C. Then, after months of deliberation, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its opinion. In a 7-2 ruling, the justices threw out Flowers’ conviction, finding that the prosecutor in Flowers’ sixth trial had intentionally eliminated prospective jurors who were black. The decision of what happens next — whether to release Flowers or begin a seventh trial — now lies with the same man who has tried him from the beginning: District Attorney Doug Evans.

The US Supreme Court agrees to hear Curtis Flowers\u2019 case

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

The tunnel2019092120190922 (WS)

A few years after Curtis Flowers first went to prison, a man living in Winona, Mississippi, named Jeffrey Armstrong found what might have been a key piece of evidence. What he found - and where he found it - offers hints that someone else could have committed the Tardy Furniture murders. Armstrong turned the potential evidence into the cops. And then, he says, it disappeared.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran.

How a possible key piece of evidence in the case was found and went missing

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

01July 16, 19962019072720190728 (WS)

On the morning of 16 July 1996, someone walked into a furniture store in downtown Winona, Mississippi, and murdered four employees. Each was shot in the head. It was perhaps the most shocking crime the small town had ever seen.

The killings rattled residents, and the pressure on investigators to solve the crime was intense. But initially they had little to go on. No one witnessed the murders, and the crime scene offered only a few clues. After a few months, investigators charged a man named Curtis Flowers with the murders. At the time, he had no criminal record, and his only connection to the murders was that he’d worked at the furniture store for a few days that summer.

What followed was a two-decade legal odyssey in which Flowers, who is black, was tried six times for the same crime – by the same prosecutor, a white man named Doug Evans. Flowers remains behind bars, though he’s maintained his innocence.

Reporters from American Public Media spent two years digging into the Flowers case. They found a town divided by race, and a murder conviction supported by questionable evidence.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran.

Why has one man been tried six times for the same crime?

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

Curtis Flowers has been tried six times for the same crime. For more than 22 years, he’s maintained his innocence, winning appeal after appeal. But every time Flowers’ conviction has been reversed, the prosecutor tried the case again. Reporters from American Public Media spent two years investigating the Flowers case to find out what the evidence really shows, and why the same prosecutor has tried the case again and again.

Episode One:
On the morning of July 16, 1996, someone walked into a furniture store in downtown Winona, Mississippi, and murdered four employees. Each was shot in the head. It was perhaps the most shocking crime the small town had ever seen.

The killings rattled residents, and the pressure on investigators to solve the crime was intense. But initially they had little to go on. No one witnessed the murders, and the crime scene offered only a few clues. After a few months, investigators charged a man named Curtis Flowers with the murders. At the time, he had no criminal record, and his only connection to the murders was that he’d worked at the furniture store for a few days that summer.
What followed was a two-decade legal odyssey in which Flowers, who is black, was tried six times for the same crime – by the same prosecutor, a white man named Doug Evans. Flowers remains behind bars, though he’s maintained his innocence.

Reporters from American Public Media spent two years digging into the Flowers case. They found a town divided by race, and a murder conviction supported by questionable evidence.

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

02The Route2019080320190804 (WS)

Law enforcement was under pressure to solve the murders at Tardy Furniture. Several months after the crime, Curtis Flowers was arrested and later brought to trial by a white prosecutor named Doug Evans.

There was no DNA match, no video surveillance footage, no witness to the murders, no fingerprints linking Curtis Flowers to the crime. Investigators didn’t even have the gun that was used. Instead, the case against Curtis Flowers relied heavily on three threads of evidence: the route he allegedly walked the morning of the murders, the gun that investigators believe he used, and the people he supposedly confessed to in jail.

According to prosecutors, Flowers walked a long and winding route through the town of Winona on the morning of July 16, 1996. It's a brazen, time-consuming way to commit a quadruple homicide that offers plenty of chances to be seen, especially in broad daylight. But that was the scenario offered at trial. And it helped put Flowers on death row.

In this episode, we meet the witnesses who said they saw Flowers walking through downtown Winona, Mississippi, the morning of the murders. Some of their stories now waver on key details, and some of them told us they felt pressured by law enforcement to talk.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran.

Did witnesses see Curtis Flowers walking around town on the morning of the murders?

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

03The Gun2019081020190811 (WS)

Investigators never found the gun used to kill four people at Tardy Furniture. Yet the missing gun, and the bullets matched to it, became a key piece of evidence against Curtis Flowers. In this episode, we examine the story behind the gun prosecutors believe was the murder weapon.

Back in 1996, on the morning of the murders at Tardy Furniture in the small town of Winona, Mississippi, a man named Doyle Simpson told people that someone had just stolen his gun: a.380-caliber pistol. It wasn’t long before investigators got in touch with Doyle. His stolen gun was the same type of gun that had been used in the murders.

Investigators didn’t have the weapon, but they claimed to have matched the bullets from the crime scene to other bullets fired from Doyle’s gun. A firearms examiner who testified at Curtis Flowers’ trial said the bullets were a 100 percent match. But the science they used to make this claim isn’t science at all.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran.

The gun used was never found but it became a key piece of evidence against Curtis Flowers

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

04The Confession2019081720190818 (WS)

No witness has been more important to the prosecution's case against Curtis Flowers than Odell Hallmon. He testified in four trials that Flowers had confessed to him while the two men were in prison together. Hallmon’s testimony helped convince jurors to convict Curtis Flowers and sentence him to death.

Hallmon has an astonishingly long criminal history that includes repeated charges for drug dealing, assault, and robbery. So how reliable is his testimony and did he receive anything in exchange for it? In this episode, we investigate the veracity of the prosecution's star witness.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran.

A jailhouse informant says Curtis Flowers confessed to the murders at Tardy Furniture

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

05Punishment2019082420190825 (WS)

Odell Hallmon, the state's star witness in the Curtis Flowers case, is serving three consecutive life sentences for murder. We wondered what he might say now that there are no deals to cut, and he will spend the rest of his days in prison. Would he stick to the story he told in court – that Flowers had confessed to the Tardy Furniture murders? We wrote him letters and sent him a friend request on Facebook. Weeks went by and we heard nothing. And then, one day, he wrote back.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran

How reliable is the prosecution's star witness - jailhouse informant named Odell Hallmon?

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

062019083120190901 (WS)

There's one critical aspect of the Curtis Flowers case that we haven't examined yet — the makeup of the juries. Each of the four times Flowers was convicted, the jury was all white or nearly all white. These trials were held in a state with a population that’s almost 40 percent black. So we decided to look more closely at why so few black prospective jurors had been selected and why the juries were so disproportionately white. And we found that it wasn't always happenstance.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran
Produced by Samara Freemark, APM
Editor: Jasper Corbett

Originally broadcast on APM.

Why were the juries in Curtis Flowers' trials so white?

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

Curtis Flowers has been tried six times for the same crime. For more than 22 years, he’s maintained his innocence, winning appeal after appeal. But every time Flowers’ conviction has been reversed, the prosecutor tried the case again. Reporters from American Public Media spent two years investigating the Flowers case to find out what the evidence really shows, and why the same prosecutor has tried the case again and again.

Episode Six:
There's one critical aspect of the Curtis Flowers case that we haven't examined yet – the makeup of the juries. Each of the four times Flowers was convicted, the jury was all white or nearly all white. These trials were held in a state with a population that’s almost 40 percent black. So we decided to look more closely at why so few black prospective jurors had been selected and why the juries were so disproportionately white. And we found that it wasn't always happenstance.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran.

07The district attorney2019090720190908 (WS)

During his six prosecutions of Curtis Flowers, district attorney Doug Evans has used the overwhelming majority of his strikes against black people. He even had a conviction overturned after an appeals court ruled that he had removed black prospective jurors because of their race.

If Doug Evans was disproportionately removing black jurors in the Flowers trials, reporters at American Public Media wanted to know how often his office was doing it in his other trials. To find out, reporters collected more than 115,000 pages of court records, dating back to 1992, when Doug Evans became district attorney. In this episode, we reveal what we found.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran.

The career of Doug Evans, who spent 20 years pushing for the execution of Curtis Flowers

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

07The District Attorney2019090720190908 (WS)

During his six prosecutions of Curtis Flowers, district attorney Doug Evans has used the overwhelming majority of his strikes against black people. He even had a conviction overturned after an appeals court ruled that he had removed black prospective jurors because of their race.

If Doug Evans was disproportionately removing black jurors in the Flowers trials, reporters at American Public Media wanted to know how often was his office doing it in his other trials? To find out, reporters collected more than 115,000 pages of court records, dating back to 1992, when Doug Evans became district attorney. In this episode, we reveal what we found.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran.

The life and career of Doug Evans who spent over 20 years trying to have Flowers executed

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

08Episode Eight2019091420190915 (WS)

Prosecutors have always said that Curtis Flowers was the only serious suspect in the Tardy Furniture investigation. But we found a document showing that another man, Willie James Hemphill, had also been questioned just days after the murders. Who was he? Why was he questioned? When we finally found Hemphill, living in Indianapolis, he had some very surprising things to say about the case.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran.

The other suspect in the Tardy Furniture murders

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?

08The other suspect2019091420190915 (WS)

Prosecutors have always said that Curtis Flowers was the only serious suspect in the Tardy Furniture investigation. But we found a document showing that another man, Willie James Hemphill, had also been questioned just days after the murders. Who was he? Why was he questioned? When we finally found Hemphill, living in Indianapolis, he had some very surprising things to say about the case.

Hosted and narrated by Madeleine Baran.

The other suspect in the Tardy Furniture murders

How can one man be tried six times for the same crime?