13:37, December 16 297 0 theguardian.com

2019-12-16 13:37:03
Man allowed to post bail after being tried six times in the same murder case

A Mississippi man who has been tried six times in the same murder case will be allowed to post bail and leave custody for the first time in 22 years.

During a hearing on Monday, a judge granted a bond request made by attorneys for 49-year-old Curtis Flowers. Bond was set at $250,000.

In July 1996, four people were shot dead in a furniture store in the north Mississippi town of Winona. Two trials involving Flowers ended in a mistrial. He was convicted four times. All four convictions were overturned.

In the sixth trial, in 2010, Flowers was sentenced to death. Earlier this year the US supreme court overturned that conviction, finding prosecutors had shown an unconstitutional pattern of excluding African American jurors.

Flowers was moved off death row at the Mississippi state penitentiary at Parchman and taken to a regional jail in Louisville.

On Monday, the circuit judge Joseph Loper said Flowers would have to wear an electronic monitor while out of custody. It was “troubling”, he said, that prosecutors had not responded to the defense motion to drop the charges against Flowers.

The district attorney, Doug Evans, has not said if he intends to try Flowers again.

If prosecutors do not respond, Loper said, “the state will reap the whirlwind”.

Flowers’s attorney, Rob McDuff, has argued that Mississippi law requires bail after two capital murder mistrials.

“This case is unprecedented in the history of the American legal system,” McDuff said during the hearing which led to Flowers’s bail. Attorneys are expected to argue at another hearing that the judge should dismiss the charges all together.

Even though Flowers’s last conviction was overturned, the original murder indictment is still active.

The four people killed on 16 July 1996 were store owner Bertha Tardy, 59, and three employees: 45-year-old Carmen Rigby, 42-year-old Robert Golden and 16-year-old Derrick “Bobo” Stewart.

A daughter of Tardy was among spectators in the courtroom on Monday. She sat across the aisle and one row back from Flowers’ daughter Crystal Ghoston. Flowers appeared wearing a dark suit, white shirt and black-and-white striped tie.

Ghoston, 26, said she had seen her father only once since he was imprisoned, about 10 years ago, and that even then she could only talk to him through a reinforced window. She said they wrote letters to each other and talked on the phone every few weeks, and that he wanted to meet her two-year-old daughter, who calls him “Paw-Paw”.

“We’re so much alike,” Ghoston said. “We laugh all the time on the phone.”

Supporters of Flowers hugged after court was dismissed.