Elliott Andalman recently attended the Supreme Court argument in the case of Flowers v. State of Mississippi, with his good friend and former law partner, Alison Steiner. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the Prosecutor in rural Mississippi had unconstitutionally eliminated African Americans from the jury in this death penalty case. Ms. Steiner had represented Mr. Flowers at trial and before the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Mr. Flowers is an African American who has been convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of four individuals. This is a highly unusual situation in which Mr. Flowers has been tried for the murder six times over more than 20 years. He has been in jail the entire time. The results of the first five trials were two mistrials when the jury could not come to a verdict and three trials in which Mr. Flowers was convicted, but the Mississippi Supreme Court threw out the convictions because of prosecutorial misconduct, including two specific instances of improperly excluding African Americans from the jury. Despite the record of misconduct by the prosecutor, the State of Mississippi allowed the same prosecutor to continue to prosecute Mr. Flowers.
The record before the Court revealed that over the course of the six trials the prosecutor had approximately 45 strikes of jurors and had used all but one to remove African Americans from the jury. The record before the Court also showed that in the sixth trial, the prosecutor had asked white jurors an average of 1.1 questions, but asked African American jurors an average of 29 questions. The record further revealed other factors that would lead to the conclusion that this verdict should be overturned because African Americans were unconstitutionally discriminated against in the selection of the jury.
This case has drawn national interest and, for those who would like to know more, it is the subject of an award-winning podcast, called In The Dark. All of season two of In The Dark is devoted to an investigation of whether or not Mr. Flowers is guilty of the murders for which he is charged. After listening to the podcast, I, for one, believe that Mr. Flowers is innocent and has spent over 20 years in jail for a crime he did not commit.