Flowers v. State

Citation773 So.2d 309
Decision Date21 December 2000
Docket NumberNo. 97-DP-01459-SCT.,97-DP-01459-SCT.
PartiesCurtis Giovanni FLOWERS v. STATE of Mississippi.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi

James W. Craig, Jackson, F. Keith Ball, Louisville, Attorneys for Appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Leslie Lee, Attorney for Appellee.

En Banc.


SMITH, Justice, for the Court:

¶ 1. The motion for rehearing is denied. The original opinions are withdrawn, and these opinions substituted therefor.

¶ 2. This case comes to this Court on appeal by Curtis Giovanni Flowers from the Circuit Court of Montgomery County where Flowers was indicted for the capital murder of Bertha Tardy while engaged in the commission of the felony crime of armed robbery, in violation of Miss.Code Ann. §§ 97-3-19(2)(e)(Supp.1996) and § 97-3-79 (1994). Flowers was also indicted separately for three other capital murders which occurred at the same time.

¶ 3. A change of venue was granted to Lee County, and, after hearing all of the testimony and evidence, the jury convicted Flowers of capital murder. The sentencing phase was then conducted, and the jury imposed the death penalty. Flowers's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal Notwithstanding the Verdict of the Jury, or in the Alternative, for a New Trial was denied, and he filed a notice of appeal to this Court. The execution of the death sentence was stayed pending appeal.


¶ 4. On the morning of July 16, 1996, Sam Jones, Jr., a retired employee of Tardy Furniture Company (Tardy's) in Winona, Mississippi, received a telephone call from the owner, Bertha Tardy. She asked Jones to come to the furniture store to train her newest employees, Robert Golden and Derrick Stewart, on how to load and unload furniture. Upon arrival at the store at approximately 9:45 a.m., Jones discovered the bodies of Tardy and three other victims. Jones ran to a nearby business and asked an employee to call the police and an ambulance.

¶ 5. After his initial entry onto the crime scene, Johnny Hargrove, Chief of Police in Winona, called for backup. MedStat, the coroner, the District Attorney, the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Mississippi Crime Lab were all requested for their services. During the investigation it was determined that the gunshot wound that killed Tardy was consistent with a .380 caliber pistol. Doyle Simpson, a relative of Flowers, had a .380 pistol stolen from his car the day of the murders. Flowers was questioned on the afternoon of the murders and consented to a gunshot residue test, but was not detained at that time. He later moved to Texas at the end of September. After further investigation had been completed, Flowers was arrested and brought back to Mississippi. The State elected to indict Flowers separately on a charge of capital murder of all four victims. The circuit court judge denied Flowers's motion to consolidate these four causes. Tardy's murder was tried independently of the others.

¶ 6. After a change of venue was granted, the trial commenced on October 13, 1997, in Lee County. The State called more than twenty witnesses to testify during its case in chief. Johnny Hargrove was the state's first witness. Hargrove testified and identified photographs showing bloody footprints that were obtained from the crime scene. Investigators were later able to determine that the footprints were consistent with a Fila Grant Hill, size ten and a half tennis shoe, the same size as worn by Flowers.

¶ 7. Melissa Schoene, a certified crime scene analyst with the Mississippi Crime Lab, testified that the evidence she discovered in Tardy's on the day of the murders included five separate casings from a .380 caliber firearm. Investigators later found.380 caliber projectiles left in a post that had been used for target practice by Doyle Simpson.

¶ 8. Doyle Simpson, a relative of Flowers, testified that on the day of the murder he had gone to work at Angelica's at about 6:15 a.m. Testimony at trial revealed that his .380 caliber pistol was stolen out of Simpson's car on the morning of the murders. Witnesses testified that they saw Flowers walking in the direction of Angelica's around 7:15 a.m. and saw him leaning against Simpson's car that same morning between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. Investigators determined that one projectile, which was recovered from a mattress at the scene, was found to have been fired from the same .380 caliber firearm that belonged to Doyle Simpson. The other projectiles that were recovered bore similar class characteristics to all of the projectiles such that the crime laboratory stated that they could have originated from the .380 or a similar gun.

¶ 9. Jack Matthews, an investigator with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, testified that Flowers was questioned initially as a witness, because he had worked at Tardy's since June 29. During the questioning, Flowers told the investigator that on July 3, Tardy had asked Flowers to pick up some batteries from a business in Winona. The batteries had fallen out of the truck and had been damaged, and Tardy had informed Flowers that he would have to pay for the batteries which amounted to between $ 300 and $ 500. Flowers did not report back to work after this incident, and the last conversation he had with Tardy was on July 9, when she told him he did not have a job anymore. According to Flowers's testimony, Tardy had advanced him $30 on July 3, but would not give him the rest of his money since it was used to pay for the damaged batteries.

¶ 10. Investigator Matthews was also allowed to testify, over the defense's objections, about the contents of a ledger sheet found in a drawer at Tardy's. The ledger indicated that approximately $287 was found to be missing from the cash drawer on the morning of the murders. Later $ 255 was discovered in the home of Connie Moore—Flowers's girlfriend where he was living the day Tardy was murdered.

¶ 11. Matthews further testified that a gunshot residue test that had been administered on Flowers was positive. Defense witnesses testified that a few days before the murders Flowers had been shooting fireworks from his hands, and Flowers testified that he had been working on a battery in his truck a few days prior to the murders. However, the forensic scientist who analyzed the gunshot residue test conducted on Flowers testified that the residue found on Flowers was from particles that contained positive identification for "gunshot residue to the exclusion of all other environmental sources."

¶ 12. Roxanne Ballard, Tardy's daughter, testified as to the normal operating procedures of the store and stated that she was involved to some extent in the business. She identified a payroll check made out to Flowers in the amount of $89.58, for 17 hours and 55 minutes of work at $5.00 an hour. She also identified an advance paid to Flowers in the amount of $30.

¶ 13. The State called numerous witnesses who testified they saw Flowers on the day of the murders. Patricia Hollman testified that she saw Flowers several times that morning and that he was wearing black nylon sweat pants and Fila Grant Hill tennis shoes. Over the defense's objections, Hollman was allowed to state that she had heard Flowers and his girlfriend arguing three days before the crimes were committed. When asked what the substance of the argument was, Hollman stated that in her opinion the couple was arguing about Flowers's work. The defense objected to this opinion statement as to leading the witness, and the court sustained the objection. The judge allowed the statement that supported the fact that the witness heard the defendant arguing, but her opinion that the argument was about work was not allowed. The jury was instructed to disregard the testimony concerning the witness's opinion.

¶ 14. In addition to this above evidence, two men, Veal and Hawkins, who shared a cell with Flowers in the Leflore County Jail, testified that Flowers admitted to them that he had committed the murders. Flowers also allegedly admitted to Veal that he had taken money out of the store.

¶ 15. After the State's case-in-chief, the defense moved for a directed verdict, and the motion was overruled. Roy Harris testified for the defense and stated that on the day of the murders he had picked up Clemmie Fleming in order to give her a ride downtown to pay her furniture bill at Tardy's. He testified that before they got to Tardy's, Fleming asked him to first take her to her mother's house. Harris stated that before they reached the furniture store he turned on a side street, which was about two blocks from Tardy's, where they saw a man run across the road. He stated that Fleming indicated that she knew the man to be Curtis Flowers. Fleming, who had earlier testified for the State, said that it was approximately 10:00 a.m. when she saw this man.

¶ 16. Flowers's girlfriend, Connie Moore, testified that the police removed a Grant Hill Fila shoe box from her house and that the box was for a size 10½ Grant Hill Fila tennis shoe. She also testified that she had purchased a pair of Fila tennis shoes, size 10½, for her son, Marcus, around November of 1995. She further testified that her son had gone to live with his father in January of 1996 and she thought that he had taken the shoes with him. She also stated that she had not seen those shoes in her house any time after the day of the murders. Moore stated that Flowers was at her house when she left to go to work on the morning of the murders. At trial it was established that at the time of the murders Flowers was the only person living with Moore who wore a size 10½ tennis shoe. ¶ 17. Flowers testified on his own behalf. He testified that he started working at Tardy's sometime before the fourth of July. He further testified that he had been told by Tardy that any damages caused by him were to come out of his check. He stated that he did in fact pick up some batteries at the request of Tardy and that the batteries had fallen out of...

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