Monday, June 14, 2010

More Curtis Flowers News From The Winona Times

Curtis Flowers, left, talks with defense attorney Andre de Gruy during his fifth trial in 2008. That trial ended with a hung jury.

by Amanda Sexton Editor and Publisher and Reggie Ross Staff Writer
06.10.10 - 06:00 am

WINONA - Jury selection was still on-going Wednesday in the sixth capital murder trial of Curtis Flowers, as 77 jurors were questioned individually in an intense vetting process that has gone on since Monday.

Initially, 600 jurors were summoned for the Flowers capital murder trial, but after reviewing qualifications, each juror's possible connection with the case, and knowledge of the defendant and the victims, jurors were excused by the court.

Monday morning, 156 jurors were questioned by Judge Joseph Loper, Jr., and by Tuesday, the jury pool had narrowed down to 77. Loper excused jurors for family relations to the defendant or the victims as well as close friendships to those connected with the case that, according to the juror, would bias the verdict.

At the start of court Monday, Loper reiterated to the potential jurors the importance of answering all questions truthfully.

"Don't sit on your hands if a response is required of you," Loper told jurors. "No outside influences can come before the evidence in this case."

Following the fifth trial of Flowers, two jurors were indicted for perjury for not admitting possible conflicts during the selection process. Charges against one juror were dismissed, but the second juror eventually pled guilty and is currently serving 15 months in jail.

Tuesday, the prosecution and defense counsel were allowed to question the pool of jurors further before conducting individual interviews with each juror.

The prosecution focused on possible juror connections with the victims, Bertha Tardy, 59, Carmen Rigby, 45, Robert Golden, 42, and Derrick "BoBo" Stewart, 16.

District Attorney Doug Evans also questioned jurors about possible connections jurors might have with witnesses in the case.

Both the prosecution and the defense worked to identify possible "outside influences" that might affect the jurors if seated on the jury. In a small county, the majority of jurors admitted family relations, friendships, and business relationships with those associated with the case. Some jurors admitted to already forming an opinion about the case due to publicity in the case or hearing about the case from friends and acquaintances.

Before individual questioning of potential jurors Tuesday, defense attorney Alison Stiener made a motion to Loper to preclude the prosecution on seeking the death penalty.

Although Loper overruled her motion, the afternoon continued with questioning jurors.

The state is seeking the death penalty in the case due to Flowers being charged with capital murder.

Opening statements in the trial will begin after a jury of 12 with two alternates is seated.

© 2010


by Amanda Sexton Editor and Publisher
06.03.10 - 08:59 am
WINONA - Judge Joseph Loper III heard pre-trial motions in the case of Curtis Flowers Tuesday at the Montgomery County Courthouse. The sixth trial of Flowers will begin on Friday.

Flowers stands accused the capital murder of four people at a Winona furniture store in July 1996. He has been tried five times for the murders. Three juries convicted Flowers, but the convictions were overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court. The last two trials ended in mistrials when the juries were unable to get a unanimous verdict.

Motions from the defense included suppression of identification testimony associated with the photo lineup used during the initial investigation of the quadruple murders.

Defense attorney Alison Steiner introduced Patricia Jackson, the public safety administrator and supervisor of the Identification Unit at the Jackson Police Department, as an expert witness in the creation of photo lineups used in police investigation. Jackson told the court that in some cases photo lineups can be suggestive to witnesses based on distinct differences in the photos.

District Attorney Doug Evans objected to Jackson being ruled an expert witness based on her lack of professional training through seminars and formal education. Jackson's experience was gained through on-the-job training.

"The state objects to [Jackson] as an expert witness because she has no information in this field," Evans said.

Loper allowed the defense to question Jackson as a lay expert in the case, but he would not classify Jackson as an expert witness.

Jackson said in the two photo lineups used in the initial investigation, several factors seemed suggestive. Flowers' photo only appeared in one of the photo lineups. A total of 12 photographs were shown to witnesses during the investigation.

Jackson noted that different backgrounds, hair styles, skin color, placement of the photo and photo cropping can alter the effect of a photo lineup.

Following questions by the defense and the prosecution, Loper cited four Mississippi Appellate Court cases where the court contradicted Jackson's testimony.

"I can reiterate my previous ruling," Loper said. "I don't think [Jackson] is an expert in this area. She doesn't even agree with the appellate court in this state."

As for suppressing testimony based on the identification made through the photo lineup, Loper ruled that the defense's motion to suppress was not warranted.

"If there is an objection at trial, I'll take it up then," Loper said. "I can't anticipate what will be said in court, but you are more than welcome to object at trial. I do not see anything in these photo arrays that were suggestive.”

© 2010


 by Amanda Sexton Editor and Publisher
04.29.10 - 08:42 am
VAIDEN - Carroll County Sheriff Jerry Carver recently requested Curtis Flowers be transferred from the Carroll-Montgomery Regional Correctional Facility to Leflore County Correctional Facility due to another inmate, close to the Flowers case, being housed at the same Vaiden facility. Flowers was moved to the Greenwood facility on approximately April 15, according to Carver.

Flowers stands accused the capital murder of four people at a Winona furniture store in July 1996. He has been tried five times for the murders. Three juries convicted Flowers, but the convictions were overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court. The last two trials ended in mistrials when the juries were unable to get a unanimous verdict.

Flowers' sixth trial will be held beginning June 4, 2010, at the Montgomery County Courthouse.

Carver said with the possible conflict, he felt it best if Flowers was transferred to a nearby facility.

Recently, in a pre-trial hearing held in Montgomery County Circuit Court, District Attorney Doug Evans told Judge Joseph Loper that Flowers was moved because he was receiving special treatment at the Vaiden facility. However, Carver said that was not his motive for transferring Flowers.

"This came up with [the other inmate], and that was my motive for moving him, Carver said.

Carver was elected as sheriff of Carroll County in November 2007, taking office in January 2008. He said he was not aware of Flowers’ stay in CMRCF prior to his coming in office, but he said Flowers was never caught with a cell phone.

As for Flowers relationship with a female jail employee, Carver said the relationship was not an intimate one, and jail leadership intercepted a letter to Flowers from the female employee. The employee later resigned.

"We nipped that in the bud when we found out about it," Carver said. "There was no evidence of anything [further between them]."
© 2010


04.22.10 - 08:57 am
By Amanda Sexton

Editor and Publisher

WINONA - Pre-trial motions for the sixth trial of Curtis Flowers were heard Tuesday by Judge Joseph Loper in Montgomery County Circuit Court. The trial will commence in June.

Flowers stands accused of the capital murder of four people at a Winona furniture store in July 1996. He has been tried five times for the murders. Three juries convicted Flowers, but the convictions were overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court. The last two trials ended in mistrials when the juries were unable to get a unanimous verdict.

Circuit Court Clerk Lanelle Martin pooled 600 potential jurors for the upcoming trial - the third trial to be held in Montgomery County. Two previous trials were held in northeast Mississippi and on the gulf coast.

Martin was instructed to go through the pool of prospective jurors and mark those that have actually sat on the panel in the three previous trials in an effort to save time.

As for court action, defense attorneys motioned the court to have Flowers transferred back to the Carroll Montgomery Regional Correctional Facility in Vaiden after he was moved to Leflore County Correctional Facility in Greenwood several months ago. The defense requested Flowers be moved back to Vaiden for the preparation of the trial.

"This adds a half hour each way if we want to see him," Alison Steiner, counsel for Flowers, said. "[Flowers] being housed a further distance than Vaiden has a bigger impact than you would think."

District attorney Doug Evans objected to the transfer due to Flowers allegedly receiving "special treatment" at the Carroll County Facility.

Evans told the court that Flowers was allegedly involved in an intimate relationship with a female jail employee and had "run of the Vaiden jail."

Loper ruled that Flowers will remain in the Greenwood facility.

"Being housed in Greenwood is not that much of a burden, and for the record, Montgomery County doesn't have a jail at all," Loper said.

In a second motion, Steiner asked the court to order the district attorney's office to provide evidentiary items missing or misplaced from the defense team's case file.

"This case has been going on for many years," Evans said. "My office has provided the defense with all discovery materials."

Loper requested Evans provide missing materials to the defense.

"I will not have this case come back to me from the Supreme Court because of a discovery issue," Loper said.

Under subpoena, Winona Chief of Police Johnny Hargrove and District Attorney investigator John Johnson testified during Tuesday's hearing about discovery items provided to the defense by the District Attorney's office.

Steiner said, "I have the officers here to make sure no agency has any additional files or documents."

The defense also requested that the district attorney's office allow members of the defense team to visit and copy several audio and video tapes in the file, and the judge granted the request.

"This is to the point of ridiculous," Evans told the court. "They have been to my office three times. I can prove I gave them [all the discovery items] because they signed for them."

A motion by the defense to dismiss Flowers' case due to Mississippi's double jeopardy clause was denied by Loper because no binding precedent from Mississippi, the Mississippi Supreme Court, or other U.S. courts says that a case cannot be tried multiple times.

"I do not think Mr. Flowers due process has been affected," Loper said.

In addition, the defense motioned that Loper recuse himself from the case citing indictments issued to two jurors by Loper during the last trial. The jurors were indicted for perjury. One eventually pled guilty to the crime, and charges were dismissed by the Mississippi Attorney General's office in the second.

Loper responded, "Right now, Mr. Flowers stands innocent until proven guilty."

He denied the motion of recusal.

The defense also motioned for the case not to be tried as a death penalty case. The motion was denied.

Last, the defense motioned the court to set bail.

"We agree this is a capital case, and up until now in this case, there has been no bail," Steiner said. "There is no issue that Mr. Flowers is a flight risk or a danger to the community."

Steiner said Flowers' mother agreed to be the custodian of her son if released on bail, and the defense did not object to an electronic monitoring device.

Loper denied the defense's motion for bail.

© 2010


11.19.09 - 10:10 am
BELZONI - Mary Purnell of Winona, a former juror for the fifth Curtis Flowers murder trial, pled guilty of two counts of perjury Monday in Humphreys County Circuit Court.

Purnell was sentenced to 10 years for each count to serve concurrently with 15 months to serve in jail with two years supervised probation and eight years unsupervised probation. Judge Jannie M. Lewis, of the 21st Circuit District covering Holmes, Humphreys, and Yazoo counties, accepted the plea agreement.

Purnell was arrested and charged with perjury four hours after testimony began in the 2008 Flowers murder trial after evidence was presented to Judge Joseph Loper, III, of her personal relationship with Flowers.

During jury selection, Purnell told the court under oath that she did not know the defendant or his family, however, a witness, at one-time a potential juror before being dismissed by the judge, alerted the court of Purnell's deceit.

The court found that Purnell had received more than 60 telephone calls from the Carroll-Montgomery Regional Correctional Facility where Flowers is being held and that her name is included on Flowers' visitation list at the facility.

"We had records that there were 61 phone calls between the two," District attorney Doug Evans said. "There were also records at the jail where letters were exchanged. She admitted all of that in court, and admitted to lying. She never said why."

Evans, who served as prosecutor for Purnell's case, said Purnell lied more than once to the court during jury selection, but she was only indicted on two instances in particular.

"Now she has two felony convictions,"

Evans said. "There was absolute proof that she had lied during voir dire [questioning of potential jurors.]"

Loper, who recused himself from Purnell's case, said he hopes Purnell's guilty plea restores the faith in the justice system some have lost.

"I think her guilty plea should stand as a warning to anyone who tries to thwart justice in any case," Loper said, who was under subpoena as a witness in this case. "I think the district attorney handled this case properly and did a good job."

According to Evans, Purnell is required to report to the Mississippi Department of Corrections on January 2, 2010, to begin her sentence.

Flowers is accused of killing four people at Tardy Furniture Store in Winona in 1996. He is charged with the capital murders of Bertha Tardy, Carmen Rigby, Derrick "BoBo" Stewart, and Robert Golden.

Guilty verdicts were handed down in the first three Flowers trials, but all three were reversed on appeal. The fourth trial and fifth trials both ended in a hung jury. A sixth trial is scheduled for June 2010.

Benny Rigby, husband of victim Carmen Rigby, and Roxanne Ballard, daughter of victim Bertha Tardy, were present in Belzoni Monday when Purnell's plea was entered into court.

Rigby said he hopes Purnell's guilty plea and sentence sends a message to anyone not truthful during jury selection.

"I hope [at the next trial] we will get some people on the jury willing to do what is right," Rigby said.
© 2009

 ***W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special: The Persecution Of Curtis Flowers***

For More On The Curtis Flowers Saga Please Visit The Friends Of Justice Website:

1 comment:

Telephone Systems Northeast Mississippi said...

So we're talking judgement here... and what's the result?