By all accounts, U.S. Supreme Court justices were mostly in agreement Wednesday when they heard arguments in a Mississippi death row case.
Though the case before the justices isn’t about guilt or innocence, but rather whether the prosecutor wrongly dismissed black jurors, most seemed – in the words of the Washington Post – “deeply troubled” by the actions of the prosecutor, District Attorney Doug Evans. Even Justice Clarence Thomas, known for not asking questions, interrupted three years of silence during oral arguments.
Several media outlets that were present Wednesday reported that the justices seemed likely to rule in favor of Curtis Flowers – on death row for the 1996 slayings of Bertha Tardy, Carmen Rigby, Robert Golden and Derrick Stewart. According to a report in the Clarion Ledger:
After six trials for the same crime, a death-row inmate from Mississippi reached the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday and appeared headed for yet another chance.
The justices spent an hour debating whether Curtis Flowers’ conviction in 2010 for the execution-style murders of four people in Winona, Miss., was tainted by a prosecutor’s rejection of potential black jurors. By the end of the hour-long oral argument, most justices seemed sure that it was.
That would be unconstitutional under a Supreme Court precedent that preceded all six trials, three of which were reversed because of misconduct by the prosecutor. Two others resulted in hung juries.
“We can’t take the history out of the case,” Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh said.
Associate Justice Samuel Alito called the case “troubling,” with an “unusual and really disturbing history.” He said District Attorney Doug Evans’ past conduct left “reasons to be suspicious.”
And those were just the conservatives.