Connect with us

U.S.

Curtis Flowers Released on Bail After 6 Trials and 23 Years Behind Bars

Published

on

  • A Mississippi man named Curtis Flowers was granted bond by a judge on Monday after spending almost 23 years in jail. 
  • Flowers was tried six times for the same 1996 murders.
  • His most recent trial in 2010 resulted in a death sentence, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his murder conviction in June because of evidence that showed the prosecutor struck down more than four times as many potential black jurors as white ones.
  • Flowers must wear an electronic monitor while he waits to hear whether or not his charges will be dropped.

Bond Release

Curtis Flowers, a Mississippi man who has been tried six times for the same murders, was granted bond by a judge on Monday that allows him to await the next step of his case at home with his family instead of in custody. 

“He’s extremely happy to be out,” Flowers attorney Rob McDuff told The Washington Post. “I think he had a sense that this was going to work out this time around.”

The decision came as a huge victory for Flowers, who has spent almost 23 years behind bars after being indicted with the killing of four furniture store employees in 1996. His case has gained national attention as four of his convictions have been overturned due to concern over racially-charged unconstitutional prosecution.

“This has been a long and costly process, and there is no need to continue wasting taxpayer money on this misguided prosecution that has been plagued by misconduct and racial discrimination,” McDuff added.

Prosecutor Questioned for Racist Decisions

Doug Evans, who has been the prosecutor in all six trials, has been questioned after reporters from American Public Media thoroughly examined evidence in the case suggesting underlying racist influence. 

In a trial process, prosecutors and defense attorneys can use “peremptory strikes” to remove people from the jury with no explanation. The APM reporters found that from 1992-2017, Evans’s office struck 50% of the eligible black jurors and only 11% of white jurors.

The two trials of Flowers that resulted in hung juries were also the only two trials that had more than one black person assessing his guilt. 

Flowers’ most recent trial was in 2010 and resulted in a death sentence. His attorneys argued that Evans’s process of gauging potential jurors was skewed with racism. In the 2010 trial, Evans asked 145 questions of the black potential jurors he rejected, while he made a total of 12 inquiries to the 11 white jurors he seated. 

In June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court examined the constitutional validity of the 2010 death sentence ruling —primarily, if Evans’s jury decisions were or were not racially discriminating. The high court determined that they were and reversed Flowers’ murder conviction. 

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that the effort to strike down black jury members “strongly suggests that the state wanted to try Flowers before a jury with as few black jurors as possible, and ideally before an all-white jury.”

“Equal justice under law requires a criminal trial free of racial discrimination in the jury selection process,” Kavanaugh wrote. 

After the most recent murder conviction was overturned, Evans stood by his belief that Flowers committed the crime.

“There’s no question about [Flowers’] guilt,” he told American Public Media. “There never has been.”

When discussing the Supreme Court’s ruling that he tried to exclude black jurors from the trials, Evan flatly denied the claim.

“If they said that, that is not true,” he said.  

Last month, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a lawsuit against Evans accusing him of racial discrimination.

Next Steps for Flowers

Although Flowers is granted permission to go home for now, he is not yet entirely free. His legal team filed a motion in September to drop the charges, but they are still waiting for that ruling.      

McDuff says he expects the judge to hold a hearing regarding dropping the case early next year. Flowers will have to wear an electronic monitor while his case continues.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (USA Today) (The Washington Post

U.S.

Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

Published

on

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

Continue Reading

U.S.

U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

Published

on

India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

Continue Reading

U.S.

Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

Published

on

Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

Continue Reading