NAACP Sues Mississippi Prosecutor for Excluding Black Jurors

(CN) – A Mississippi district attorney who prosecuted a black man six times for the same crime is facing a class action lawsuit that claims he has carried out a 27-year-old pattern of racial discrimination in the jury selection process by excluding black citizens from serving as jurors.

The lawsuit filed on Monday comes three months after the state’s high court threw out the murder conviction of Curtis Flowers following a scathing rebuke from the U.S. Supreme Court, which found District Attorney Doug Evans improperly kept black citizens off the jury. 

Curtis Flowers (Mississippi Department of Corrections via AP)

Evans has tried Flowers six times over the past two decades for the 1996 murders of four people in a Winona furniture store, and over the years Evans has unseated 41 of 43 potential black jurors in the case.

In 2010, Evans removed five of six black jurors in Flowers’ trial.

The lawsuit filed Monday by a Mississippi branch of the NAACP and four black voters asks U.S. District Judge Debra Brown to order Evans and his seven-county office in rural Mississippi to stop using peremptory challenges to intentionally strike prospective black jurors because of their race.

The practice is an unconstitutional violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, the plaintiffs claim. They are represented by lawyers with the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund and the MacArthur Justice Center.

“In the absence of intervention by this court, Evans will ignore the Supreme Court’s decision and continue his office’s policy, custom, and usage of racial discrimination in the use of peremptory challenges – not just in Curtis Flowers’ case, but in every case in the Fifth Circuit Court District in which black citizens appear for jury service,” the 23-page lawsuit filed in Greenville federal court states.

A call seeking comment to Evan’s office in Grenada went unanswered Monday afternoon.

The lawsuit cites an investigative report by American Public Media Reports that found Evans’ office struck black jurors at a rate that was four times greater than whites. The media outlet collected the data for the true crime podcast series “In The Dark,” which featured the Flowers case.

A former law enforcement officer and judge, Evans was re-elected earlier this month as district attorney of the Fifth Circuit Court District, a position he had held since 1992. The district covers Attala, Carroll, Choctaw, Grenada, Montgomery, Webster and Winston counties.

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