Flowers v. State, No. 2004-DP-00738-SCT.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtGraves, Justice
Citation947 So.2d 910
Docket NumberNo. 2004-DP-00738-SCT.
Decision Date01 February 2007
PartiesCurtis Giovanni FLOWERS v. STATE of Mississippi.
947 So.2d 910
Curtis Giovanni FLOWERS
v.
STATE of Mississippi.
No. 2004-DP-00738-SCT.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
February 1, 2007.

[947 So.2d 915]

David Paul Voisin, Andre De Gruy, Jackson, attorneys for appellant.

Office of the Attorney General by Judy T. Martin, Marvin L. White, Jr., attorneys for appellee.

EN BANC.

ON MOTION FOR REHEARING

GRAVES, Justice, for the Court.


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 The original opinions are withdrawn, and these opinions are substituted therefor.

¶ 2. A Montgomery County grand jury issued four separate indictments for capital murder against Curtis Giovanni Flowers for the killing of four people during the commission of a robbery. He was tried and convicted on one count after a change of venue from Montgomery County to Lee County. We reversed that conviction on appeal. See Flowers v. State, 773 So.2d 309 (Miss.2000) ("Flowers I"). Before Flowers I was handed down, Flowers was tried and convicted on another count in Harrison County. We also reversed that conviction. See Flowers v. State, 842 So.2d 531 (Miss.2003) ("Flowers II"). Flowers was then tried and convicted on all four counts in Montgomery County and sentenced to death the following day. Flowers now appeals his conviction and sentence of death.

FACTS

¶ 3. On July 16, 1996, Bertha Tardy called Sam Jones, one of her employees at Tardy Furniture Store, and asked him to come down to the store to train two new employees, Robert Golden and Derrick "Bobo" Stewart, on loading furniture and making deliveries. When Jones arrived at the furniture store between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m., he discovered that Tardy, Golden, Stewart, and Carmen Rigby had all been shot and only Stewart was still alive at that time. Jones went to a nearby business and requested that someone call the police and an ambulance. Chief Johnny Hargrove was the first police officer to arrive at the crime scene, and he and Jones went back inside the store. MedStat employees then arrived and took Stewart

947 So.2d 916

to the hospital, where he died days later.

¶ 4. Investigating officers determined that all of the victims had been shot in the head and recovered .380 calibre shell casings from the crime scene. Bloody footprints were also found near the body of one of the victims. Officers also found a check payable to Curtis Flowers and a time sheet of his hours worked in the office at Tardy's Furniture. Doyle Simpson reported that his .380 calibre pistol had been stolen from his car that morning, and a witness placed Flowers at Simpson's car earlier that morning. Flowers was interviewed by police that same day, and they conducted a gunshot residue test on him; however, he was not detained at that time. After further investigation, Flowers was arrested and indicted on four separate counts for the murders of Tardy, Golden, Stewart, and Rigby.

¶ 5. Flowers was initially tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the murder of Bertha Tardy on October 17, 1997. He was also tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in a separate trial for the murder of Derrick Stewart on March 31, 1999. This court reversed both convictions on appeal. See Flowers I and II. After Flowers' separate convictions for the deaths of Tardy and Stewart were overturned, all four cases were consolidated and brought to trial in Montgomery County on February 2, 2004.

¶ 6. An initial jury pool consisting of 500 citizens was drawn, with 300 scheduled to appear on the first day of trial, a Monday, and the remaining 200 instructed to report to the courthouse on Wednesday. When the judge realized he may not have enough qualified jurors to empanel a jury from the initial venire, he entered an order for the clerk to draw the names of 100 more potential jurors. The voir dire process consisted of both group and individual examination. When the parties began exercising their peremptory strikes, the State exercised its first seven on African-American jurors. At this point, defense counsel lodged a Batson1 challenge, contending that the strikes were racially motivated. The judge declared that Flowers had shown a prima facie case of discrimination under Batson and required the State to proffer race-neutral reasons for the exercise of peremptory strikes, which Flowers then rebutted. The State also exercised its remaining five peremptory challenges of potential jurors on African-Americans. After the State had exercised all of its peremptory challenges, two African-American jurors were seated; however, one of those two was later excused after he informed the judge that he could not be a fair and impartial juror. The State then exercised all three of its strikes of alternate jurors on African-Americans. At the end of the jury selection process, the trial court ruled that the State had not exercised its peremptory challenges in a racially discriminatory manner and denied Flowers' Batson challenge.

¶ 7. Opening statements began on February 6th, after four days of jury selection. After six days of testimony, the jury received the case on February 11th and returned a unanimous guilty verdict on all four counts of murder. The sentencing phase of the trial was held the next day, and the jury unanimously decided that Flowers should receive the death penalty for each conviction. Flowers filed a motion for a new trial; the trial court held a hearing on Flowers' motion; and the motion was ultimately denied. Flowers timely filed his notice of appeal on April 6, 2004. Flowers now raises eighteen issues on appeal. We find the first issue dispositive

947 So.2d 917

of the case and reverse and remand for a new trial.

DISCUSSION
I.

¶ 8. Flowers claims that the trial court erred in denying his Batson claim below because the State exercised its peremptory strikes in a racially discriminatory way when it used all fifteen peremptory strikes on African-American jurors. The State rebuts this charge by claiming that it offered sufficient race-neutral reasons for its challenges and that Flowers failed to introduce sufficient evidence to prove that the strikes were a pretext for racial discrimination against African-American jurors. This Court gives great deference to a trial court's determinations under Batson because they are based largely on credibility. Berry v. State, 802 So.2d 1033, 1037 (Miss.2001) (citations omitted). In reviewing a claim for a Batson violation, "we will not overrule a trial court on a Batson ruling unless the record indicates that the ruling was clearly erroneous or against the overwhelming weight of the evidence." Thorson v. State, 721 So.2d 590, 593 (Miss.1998).

¶ 9. In lodging a Batson claim, the party who objects to the peremptory strike "must first make a prima facie showing that race was the criteria for the exercise of the peremptory strike." McFarland v. State, 707 So.2d 166, 171 (Miss.1997) (citing Batson, 476 U.S. at 96-97, 106 S.Ct. 1712). A defendant can establish a prima facie case of discrimination by showing:

(1) that he is a member of cognizable racial group; (2) that the prosecutor has exercised peremptory challenges to remove from the venire members of the defendant's race; (3) and the facts and circumstances raised an inference that the prosecutor used his peremptory challenges for the purpose of striking minorities.

Snow v. State, 800 So.2d 472, 478 (Miss. 2001). Once a prima facie case has been established, the party exercising the challenge has the burden to articulate a race-neutral explanation for excluding that potential juror. McFarland, 707 So.2d at 171. As long as discriminatory intent is not inherent in the explanation given by the prosecution, "the reason offered will be deemed race neutral." Randall v. State, 716 So.2d 584, 588 (Miss.1998) (citation omitted). After a race-neutral explanation has been given, "the trial court must determine whether the objecting party has met its burden to prove that there has been purposeful discrimination in the exercise of the peremptory," i.e., that the reason given was a pretext for discrimination. McFarland, 707 So.2d at 171. This Court has recognized five indicia of pretext that are relevant when analyzing the race-neutral reasons offered by the proponent of a peremptory strike, specifically:

(1) disparate treatment, that is, the presence of unchallenged jurors of the opposite race who share the characteristic given as the basis for the challenge; (2) the failure to voir dire as to the characteristic cited; . . . (3) the characteristic cited is unrelated to the facts of the case; (4) lack of record support for the stated reason; and (5) group-based traits.

Manning v. State, 765 So.2d 516, 519 (Miss.2000) (citations omitted). The burden remains on the opponent of the strike to show that the race-neutral explanation given is merely a pretext for racial discrimination. Berry, 802 So.2d at 1042.

¶ 10. During the initial stage of jury selection, the State exercised all twelve of its peremptory strikes against African-American jurors. Two African-Americans

947 So.2d 918

were initially seated on the jury after the State ran out of peremptory strikes. Stanley Booker, an African-American male who was initially selected to serve on the jury, was released from service after he came forward and admitted to the judge that he could not be fair and impartial. After Mr. Booker was released, the judge provided for the picking of alternate jurors, and the State exercised all three of its available peremptory strikes of alternates against African-American jurors. Only one African-American, Lashanda McChristion, ultimately sat on the jury that convicted Flowers. Though the State exercised all fifteen of its peremptory strikes against African-American jurors, Flowers only contests the striking of eleven of those fifteen jurors on appeal.2 We now address Flowers' challenge of those eleven jurors.

II.

Juror 4—Willie Lee Hamer, Jr.

¶ 11. Flowers first challenges the striking of juror Willie Lee Hamer, Jr., an...

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77 practice notes
  • Brown v. State, NO. 2018-DR-01256-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • December 10, 2020
    ...applied. "[D]isparate treatment of similarly situated jurors is an indicator of pretext for racial discrimination." Flowers v. State , 947 So. 2d 910, 921 (Miss. 2007). ¶95. Brown argues that his Batson claim is not barred and cites the United States Supreme Court's decision in Foster v. Ch......
  • Flowers v. Mississippi, No. 17-9572
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 21, 2019
    ...with as strong a prima facie case of racial discrimination as we have ever seen in the context of a Batson challenge." Flowers v. State , 947 So.2d 910, 935 (2007). The opinion further stated that the "State engaged in racially discriminatory practices during the jury selection process" and......
  • Flowers v. State, NO. 2010–DP–01348–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 2, 2017
    ...in racial discrimination during jury selection, the Court once again reversed and remanded the case for a new trial. Flowers v. State , 947 So.2d 910 (Miss. 2007) (" Flowers III "). Flowers's fourth and fifth trials also were on all four counts of capital murder. Both resulted in mistrials ......
  • Hutto v. State, NO. 2014-DP-00177-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • May 11, 2017
    ...relief).Byrom v. State, 2014–DR–00230–SCT (April 3, 2014) (order). Ross v. State, 954 So.2d 968 (Miss. 2007). Flowers v. State, 947 So.2d 910 (Miss. 2007). Flowers v. State, 842 So.2d 531 (Miss. 2003). Randall v. State, 806 So.2d 185 (Miss. 2002). Flowers v. State, 773 So.2d 309 (Miss. 2000......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
78 cases
  • Brown v. State, NO. 2018-DR-01256-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • December 10, 2020
    ...applied. "[D]isparate treatment of similarly situated jurors is an indicator of pretext for racial discrimination." Flowers v. State , 947 So. 2d 910, 921 (Miss. 2007). ¶95. Brown argues that his Batson claim is not barred and cites the United States Supreme Court's decision in Foster v. Ch......
  • Flowers v. Mississippi, No. 17-9572
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 21, 2019
    ...with as strong a prima facie case of racial discrimination as we have ever seen in the context of a Batson challenge." Flowers v. State , 947 So.2d 910, 935 (2007). The opinion further stated that the "State engaged in racially discriminatory practices during the jury selection process" and......
  • Flowers v. State, NO. 2010–DP–01348–SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • November 2, 2017
    ...in racial discrimination during jury selection, the Court once again reversed and remanded the case for a new trial. Flowers v. State , 947 So.2d 910 (Miss. 2007) (" Flowers III "). Flowers's fourth and fifth trials also were on all four counts of capital murder. Both resulted in mistrials ......
  • Hutto v. State, NO. 2014-DP-00177-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • May 11, 2017
    ...relief).Byrom v. State, 2014–DR–00230–SCT (April 3, 2014) (order). Ross v. State, 954 So.2d 968 (Miss. 2007). Flowers v. State, 947 So.2d 910 (Miss. 2007). Flowers v. State, 842 So.2d 531 (Miss. 2003). Randall v. State, 806 So.2d 185 (Miss. 2002). Flowers v. State, 773 So.2d 309 (Miss. 2000......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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