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Mississippi Man Granted Bail After 6 Murder Trials

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Curtis Flowers has been in prison for 22 years; much of that time has been spent on death row. That was until Monday after he was released on bail. His case has drawn national attention because of racial bias and prosecutorial misconduct. Flowers is a black man tried six times for a quadruple murder.

The American Public Media podcast "In The Dark" has chronicled how a prosecutor repeatedly kept black residents off the jury in his trials. "In The Dark" host Madeleine Baran is on the line now from Winona, Miss. Good morning, Madeleine.

MADELEINE BARAN: Good morning.

GREENE: Can you just remind us about Curtis Flowers, his story and how he ended up on death row?

BARAN: So Curtis Flowers is from this small town, Winona, Miss. And after this quadruple murder in '96, he was arrested, sent to trial, convicted, appealed, won, tried again. And this case has gone on and on since then - four convictions and death sentences, two mistrials.

But it's worth pointing out that every time the jury who convicted Curtis Flowers was either all white or mostly white. And when he won his appeals, it was always on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct and including all the way to the Supreme Court.

GREENE: OK. So now he's been granted bail. I guess my first question is him - how is he doing?

BARAN: Well, you know, Curtis has always been described to us as someone who's happy-go-lucky, sunny disposition. And that's certainly what we saw at the jail yesterday afternoon where he came out with his sisters on either side of him. And we actually have some tape of what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CURTIS FLOWERS: I feel good right now. I'm happy - I'm out - to be spending time with family, oh and looking forward to Christmas.

BARAN: He just said, you know, I'm kind of overwhelmed here at the same time.

GREENE: I mean, we have spoken about this case before. Your podcast has put so much attention on the alleged bias here. I mean, parts of the podcast were even played in the hearing yesterday. As you followed this so closely, did you see this day coming?

BARAN: You know, it's hard to say. When you do a investigative story, you know, you find out a lot of new information, but you never know what the impact will be. And so it's hard to say. I mean, it's not common to get bail in capital cases, but this is not a normal case. We investigated extensively all the evidence in the case, and it did not hold up to scrutiny.

GREENE: Remind me about the prosecutor, who has been such a huge focus in all of this.

BARAN: So he's an elected district attorney. His name is Doug Evans, and he's the same person who's brought this case to trial all six times. And interestingly enough, he was absent from the courtroom yesterday. He sent a junior prosecutor, and the judge was not pleased. He said, look - I expected to see Doug Evans here. And he's clearly not happy that he sent someone else in his stead.

GREENE: And so Curtis Flowers - I mean, looking ahead now - he says he's looking forward to Christmas. He's out on bail. I mean, he's been retried before. Right? Could that happen again? Could this not be the end for him?

BARAN: Yes, it could. And you know, this is a thing we found out. There's this kind of legal "Groundhog Day" in our criminal justice system, where if you're tried and convicted and you win your appeal, there's actually no limit to the number of times you can be tried. So we're just waiting to see what the prosecutor will do in this case.

GREENE: All right. That is Madeleine Baran. She's host of the American Public Media podcast "In The Dark." Thanks so much for all of your reporting Curtis Flowers' story and for your time this morning.

BARAN: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF DISTANT.LO'S "TOO OFTEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.