Audioburst Search

S2 E8: The D.A.


Just a note before we get started. This episode contains a word that's offensive previously on in the dark. Too long way too low in Kurdish flowers dare and prison and engineered Reagan don't all I am will get a fair trial. Get fat trial will let would have happened. I can't accept not being given a fair trial. He's not 'imbursement system is basically Curtis foul versus Doug. And in end who's going to win. When I moved to Mississippi last summer, I figured it wouldn't be long before I ran into the DA Doug Evans. I was in his district. Nearly every day talking to people about the case of Curtis flowers bet a lot of other people that way despite chance driving around, but it never saw Doug Evans just out around town. The courthouse in Winona and sat in the courtroom same courtroom where Curtis flowers was tried. I sat through several days of court proceedings in the fall again in the spring. I saw dozens of defendants shuffle in and out of the courtroom on a variety of low level drug offenses. I saw all the public defenders, including Odell homes old attorney we barely and the judge Joey loafer, I even saw Bo Jack the route witness joke to me back at his house. That microphone was being tapped by the Russians fo- Jack had been called to serve as a juror on a grand jury. He got out of it by telling judge Lober that he couldn't read or write? There are no trials held in Montgomery County for the entire year that I was reporting in Mississippi. Every single case was resolved by a plea. So Doug Evans never needed to be there. He would send his assistant prosecutors to handle the daily churn of courthouse business as a kept reporting kept not seeing Doug Evans and went to Friday night high school football games. No sign of douggins. I went to a Christmas parade and watched as the mayor of why known passed by on the back of a fire truck wearing a Santa hat and waving along with a caravan of other elected officials miss sheriff, the circuit clerk, even the homecoming Queen wearing a glittery tiara tossing up candy stillness sign of Doug Evans. In january. I went to a Martin Luther King day March in well known that ended in a celebration held inside the courtroom. There were speeches by local pastors and performance. I local dance group complete with a Michael Jackson impersonator wearing a silver glove on his right hand. Still no sign of Doug, Athens and so- Doug Evans remained a bit of a mystery to me this man who had decided to try Curtis flowers six times. I knew that eventually I would go to Doug Evans office and asked to see him. But before I did that I had worked to do. I wanted to try to find out much as I could about dengue Evans, his childhood. His career is record is a prosecutor anything that could help me understand this man who had decided to pursue Curtis flowers so relentlessly. This is season. Two of in the dark and investigative podcast. By ATM reports, I'm Madeline baron. This season is about the case of Curtis flowers a black man from a small town in Mississippi who spent the past twenty one years fighting for his life in a white prosecutor who spent that same time trying just as hard to execute. It. When I set out to learn more about Doug Evans started at the beginning like way at the beginning. Doug Evans was born in nineteen fifty two and grew up in the town of Grenada Mississippi about twenty five minutes north of why no no we talked to one of Doug Evans, childhood friends. His name is Johnny Cox, and he grew up on the same block as dug up Johnny Cox's had a stroke. So he's a little hard to understand. Respect. Pretty much almost all white. Johnny Cox said the neighborhood where they grew up back, then it was quiet and everybody pretty much respected everybody. And he said that the neighborhood was almost all white. Johnny Cox is white and Doug Evans is white. And he said that he and Doug Evans spend their time as kids going to movies playing in tree houses that kind of thing on the black side of town growing up was much different. I talked to a black woman in Grenada about what it was like for her growing up as a kid back. Then her name is Diana free. Lynn foster, she's just a year older than Doug Evans when we went to the movies. Of course, we would have to go in the back of the those kinds of things and then the water fountains. Of course, I knew the water fountains were different. And this is how it had been in Mississippi for a long time. Black people did not have the same rights as white people. But then in the summer of nineteen sixty six when Doug Evans was turning fourteen. And getting ready to start high school something remarkable happened in the town of Grenada though, it's now been mostly forgotten. That's summer. A young pastor named Martin Luther King junior arrived in town along with an entire group of civil rights. Organizers king was just passing through on his way to Jackson as part of a civil rights. Protests called the March against fear. Reporters from national TV news networks covered the March. As it arrived. In town, Mississippi March is getting close to Grenada is headed share of Ku Klux Klan activity. Also, in fact, one state police official told me that for some reason a lot of Grenadas white residents just like to cause trouble to the negro marcher. Then Grenada represents the first and a long string of towns between here in Jackson where race hatred is notorious, and where law enforcement is sometimes opened a question Martin Luther King left Grenada after a day or so, but a number of the civil rights organizers who are with them stayed in town to help people. They're organized. To fight for their civil rights together. They created a group called the Grenada freedom movement, the hub of that movement was a Baptist church called bellflower, people would pack the pews to listen to speeches and plan the movement. I have a recording of one of those speeches. It's by prominent organizer from the southern Christian leadership conference named Jose. Oh williams. We were going to Neil. Going over. Nick can get free. They can get free. And good. No. That fact men can feel. They can reach hail. I went to bellflower church a few months ago, these days, it's falling apart the bricks on the side of the building are actually popping out of the wall. And the roof is separating from the sides a woman named Stella Cox Williamson invited me in. On the second. The main part of the church has been shut down because it's not safe to be there. But there's a little chapel attached to one side. That's still gets used by the congregation, and that's where we sat down. This is where everything got started. Stella was in the movement back, then she was just thirteen at the time. And she told me that back in the summer of nineteen sixty six they organize marches almost every night. Like, if we was gonna go and protest, you know, peak it, we would have the meetings each earch in then we will get out and go in March around the square, I'll you know, the marchers would walk to downtown Grenada. They make a loop around the square passing under the shadow of a statue of a confederate soldier many of the marchers were teenagers or even younger all the marchers were black with the occasional exception of a few white supporters mostly from out of town. Some nights as many as five hundred white people would descend on the square and the streets surrounding it five hundred white people in a town with a total population white and black of about nine thousand the white people would be armed with rocks, bottles, and even fireworks. And they would hurt them at the marchers. It was like the entire town was involved in this in one way or another or watched happen. Doug Evans was a teenager at the time. And this was what he saw going on around him. He would have seen the marchers seen the violence. It was impossible to ignore. The local police did almost nothing to stop the violent attacks by the white mobs. In fact, the only people they did arrest in any number for the black people have Grenada who were marching for the civil rights the local newspaper, the daily sentinel star published letters from white people thanking the police for maintaining law and order one of those letters said, quote the citizen. Grenada should be proud of the law enforcement officers in regards to the way they've handled the situation. The letter was written by a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi. Stella Cox, Williamson got arrested these marches more than once and the cops through our in jail. Even though she was just thirteen and two guesses out that we get nj in salads CEO. And it was in summertime. Inaccurate. Remember, you know me being at age hours skier today. Stella's sister got arrested two I'm going to show your pitcher. Oh, wow. She's a little kid. The picture is spell showed me was on her cell phone. It was a mugshot from nineteen sixty six ever sister. Eva after she'd been arrested for marching the mugshot have been taken in the jail and either the girl being arrested was just seven years old. That's summer. Something else happened to a federal judge ordered the all white schools in Grenada to open enrollment to black students more than one hundred black families sign their children up to attend previously all white schools that fall. One of the schools in the middle of the integration fight was the high school. It was called John Rundle and that year Doug Evans was starting high school there as a freshman on the first day of class in September of nineteen sixty six hundreds of students black and white made their way to John Rundle high school, and to the elementary school next door as crowds of white men gathered in the streets that morning a high school teacher named buddy Pender had the windows open in his classroom. Our coal the role. They we couldn't call it. Because across the street heard the sound of kids screaming and in ingrown people with accents hitting that will memory age children with acne animals to keep them from coming to school. It will move would school. It was all white adults beginning black children, and I heard I heard the silence of the blows being delivered. It was horrible. Listen to let just all these years, Lloyd, I've never been forget that one of the black students arriving at the high school for the first time that morning was Diana Freeland foster. She was just fifteen when we start at school that morning. They will wait in force. The police was there, and they were supposed to have been protecting. But of course, there was no protection. And when we got there that morning. I mean that would just folks everywhere. I mean, just white folks. Everywhere. So I can remember when we got out of the car, you know, you could hear the screaming in the Jere Danna rushed inside the school. But you only been in class for a few hours. When all of a sudden, the bell rang, and everyone was told class is dismissed go home, and Anna and her friends gathered their things and walked out the front door. So we went out in the school is really was a beautiful school great architecture. Then it was head all of these half steps. And so we looked out and we saw of these men and at that time, of course, it looked like hundreds to me, but they were everywhere. They went in trees, they were on the trees they were on the side walls. They will own the school long. They were everywhere, you know, in the head sticks. They hit bad. They just whatever instruments weapons things that they could use for weapons. Fifteen year old Diana saw this white mob and right away. Way she turned around to go back inside. But she ran right into the principal. He was blocking the door. The principal. Sit of you. Okay. You've gotta go home. You can't come back in here. You have to leave school you have to leave the school grounds. So what did you do we walked out into the mall? They beat us. Just swing in the bats and whatever weapon at once they had in their hands and coming up on us. And like, basically, the one thing that I remember them saying constantly saying over and over again, never go back to your school. We built a school for you. Why you coming over here with us? By the time. Diana got home from school that day. She'd been beaten up she had blood on her face. After that every day in class was like a battle white students were beating up black students. A lot of the teachers weren't doing anything about it. There was a walkout of black students to protest there were hearings in federal court and the Justice department sent FBI agents to monitor the situation the F B I ended up arresting at least thirteen white people for beating up the students. This went on for months, and after a while a lot of the black students transferred back to their old schools, some weight families banded together to create an all white private school, but Doug Evans, and a lot of other white students stayed at John Randall highschool. I found an old high school yearbook from Doug Evans senior year in his class photo. He's wearing a black bow tie and suit jacket. He had long Brown sideburns, and it's dark Brown hair. Swept to one side. Doug Evans didn't appear anywhere else in the yearbook. He's not listed as a member of any clubs or is being on the honor roll playing any sports. He wasn't a class officer the teacher at the high school buddy Pender said he remembered Doug Evans from back, then Evans was one of his students, but he Pender told us, but Doug Evans, didn't stand out one way or the other. Low key. Holy notice. In a million years thought, they could have been a lawyer. He was. Okay student, but we can only just you just don't ever know about your kids with what they're going about to use fours there. Interesting as the years go by you know, but no, I wouldn't have thought Doug would have been the. Just shows. You don't ever you don't ever know anybody show. After Doug Evans, graduated from high school, he decided to become a police officer. He joined the police force in Grenada. And he got a degree in criminal Justice from delta state university. He also later worked the sheriff's office as a deputy. I talked to a man who served on the police force with Doug Evans back in Grenada in the nineteen seventies. His name is Freddie Tillman. Now went to see him at his house one day. Freddie Tillman told me he still had a photo of him and Doug Evans from back then lying around somewhere. He went to find it. So what are we looking at? Can you read it? Let's see. Okay, front row left to right. Oh, c d Evans. Oh, right there. Worked with him day and night a lot of times. Hey tweeted about a fan, but he done his job as Freddie Tillman. What it was like to be a law enforcement officer back in the seventies. Nineteen sixty six head to civil rights marches here. And low and phone when I started you still going through the repercussions from it. Racial tension back then and at that time we had. We had more trouble on the blacks as far as violating the law. When I started. There was about all got arrested was back then and they were congregated on one little specific area where they all went for their parties. No and placed with. Police would always there and one of them got the fighting the favorite doing something bad. They'd get arrested time they had to find them and had to fight them too. Because they will fight him. But it would come across like, they play pharma was harassing the black and. When I started. There was at the way it was back, then there were very few black police officers on the force one of those officers was a man named CLYDE Simmons and CLYDE Simmons told me that when he first applied to become a cop. He was rejected. He said the only reason he ended up on the force. The only reason there are any black cops on the Grenada police force at all in the early seventies was because of federal employment. Discrimination lawsuit filed by the end of lace EP CLYDE, Simmons told me that eventually a federal judge basically ordered the police chief to hire him took so long without really been wounded. But after the Jewish told me that I hate accepted. So. Fittler about. But when CLYDE Simmons became a cop he found out that he didn't have the same authority as the white officers. They. Rhys white you couldn't arrest people, right? No. So how does that actually work like so like you'd pull someone over and what would happen if you warn over you help them that's horror Mia? Endear you've had no radio info white of and he was going to see it. So how did you feel about that? We'll let time what? I hope or new chain which he did. Oh that kind of thing about what's keeping the job. Clyde simmons. Didn't remember much about working with Doug Lavigne's read old news coverage from back when Doug Evans was gone for sment? And I found a few mentions of Doug Evans as a cop nothing memorable. There's a photo of him in a jail cell peering into a hole or someone escaped. There's a bunch of articles that mentioned him taking part in routine arrests and stakeouts things like that. But Freddie, Tillman told me that over time Doug Evans, moved up the ranks. Do it was an investigator at our police eve and all I can say good job. So let makes a good investigator. Being very intelligent to start with and then being like a Budo bin Laden with you got a hound dog. Somebody will stay with Freddie, Tillman told me that when he and the other cops found out that Doug Evans was going to leave the small town and go to law school that struck everyone is out of the ordinary. I didn't particularly light lawyers. I think they one of the main paint on with our country. But you do it would do a good job. And. Out proud of him for doing coach everybody can auto better than. We talked to another man who worked on the police force with Doug Evans. His name is Michael von, and he said that what stood out to him about. Doug Evans was the man's ambition. Evans. He wanted to succeed. And you could see that it he decided he was going to go by Cody DEA low-power power to. I liked him. But was about himself and he wanted to succeed and he has. That Evans went off to attend law school at the university of Mississippi about an hour or so north of Grenada. He became a lawyer got a job in the DA's office working as an assistant prosecutor. And then he was elected as a judge in a local court of the Justice court handles a lot of lower level matters. He held up physician for a few years and then in nineteen Ninety-one. Doug Evans ran for district. Attorney. It was a tough race. Evans was challenging the incumbent. A man had been in office for twelve years, but Doug Lavigne's knew how to campaign he got the endorsement of the Grenada county bar association. The group released a statement calling Evans, quote, a fine Christian man with unquestioned integrity. Devons also took out ads in the local paper. One of the ads said, quote, the people of this district want a district attorney who is not afraid to present all the cases investigated by our law enforcement officers to the grand juries. In another ad Evans promised the voters quote. I will be fair, but firm to everyone. Back then the district. Doug Evans was running in was about sixty percent, white and forty percent black. It's still is an Evans campaign seemed mainly directed at those white voters one of the places Doug Evans spoke during his campaign was that a rally called Black Hawk Black Hawk is the spigot southern fair where a lot of politicians come to speak. Our reporter Parker talked with the person who invited Doug Evans to speak at Blackhawk back then in nineteen Ninety-one. His name is Bill Lord. We'll move people to blame rela work place. People the church in the community. They raise the families there, and they have traditional vA is the believe in things that made them Murphy greet and the bone countries think they when we get down. And and hear what the people have see. But the Blackhawk rally isn't just a rally. It's also. Fundraiser, it raises money to pay for buses to send kids to private schools schools that were created during integration by white families who didn't want their kids going to school with black kids. When you say the Blackhawk rally is a segregationist rally. No. No, all we've been many blacks is ten that. Plus and many of speak black canvas feet. Yeah. And we've been we've ads from blacks from the teacher to come in. Pain saying, you know, the court all from from Brazil, and they've been there too in signing the Ravis pictures in the paper there, and what did the crowd think of that would walk in Georgia? The georgia. Good people come to the injured. Bill Lord said the crowd liked Doug Evans, and his message will be to a phone crime. I'm going to try to. Keep your home safe and family safe and go put these people what he those team be real billeted. You'll leave them in the. Doug Evans, also spoke before a local branch of a group called the council of conservative citizens. The group's statement of principles says they quote oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind. Doug, Evans, won the election. He became the district attorney and he's held that position ever since. Every four years. He runs for office. And every four years he wins. Almost always Doug Evans is the only option on the ballot. In the twenty six years. Doug, Evans, spend the district attorney. He's only been challenged. Once it happened back in two thousand three when a local attorney ran against him. Evans won that election easily. I talked to a lot of attorneys have gone up against Doug Evans, not just in the Curtis flowers case and the all described Evans as formidable these attorneys told me that where Evans excels is in the courtroom. I talked to a public defender in Tallec county named Richard Carter about what Doug Evans is like at trial. He has great appeal with the jury. He's almost preacher. Like like. The jury hangs on his words, and he's very poetic might not be the right word. But he's he's got a style about him where it's very comfortable and relatable to the people in this district. Public defender Lee told me he's gone up against Doug ovens a lot over the years. Don't try case against him because he's like a bulldog. If you get the judge to sustain objection he come right back and try go again, he's boo. He goes after him the main. He's nice well mannered. But when he won't somebody tries to get them believes that he's right. He's gonna go after him. Spend a lot of time over the past year in the state archives? Jackson, Mississippi reading old newspaper stories about the cases that Doug Evans, had prosecuted the papers mostly just covered the big ones high profile murder cases that went to trial and it clear picture emerged. Doug Evans from reading these articles of a prosecutor who's tough and who excels at convincing juries to vote for guilt. Doug Evans, have prosecuted cases against gang members who shot each other and feuds he got after a woman who appeared to have hired a hit man to kill her husband and a glowing profile Doug Lavigne's, headlined DA accustomed to fourteen hour days Evans is quoted as saying this, my belief the guilty persons. He sentenced to as much time as a loud by law. When we've done that we've done all we can do Evans also said quote. I don't think anyone should be let out early. Asa found out the case of Curtis flowers wasn't the first time that Doug Evans had sought. The death penalty is actually tried to get at least twenty six times. He's convinced juries to sentence all kinds of people's a death an eighteen year old who robbed a store and killed the store's owner a man who robbed a convenience store and killed someone in the store, and then drove off and killed another person at a gas station. In one murder trial in nineteen Ninety-three dugout quoted from the Old Testament to convince jurors to vote for death. According to the local paper Evans, quoted from the book of Genesis who so shut us man's blood. By man, shall his blood, be shed? And while I was reading all this news coverage of these high profile cases, there was one detail that stood out to me. And that was that in these articles, sometimes there'd be just one line. Let's say something like this jury of eleven whites and one black convicted. So and so or the all white jury returned to verdict of guilty. And reading about these trials and the race of the jurors on these trials it made me think of the Curtis flowers case where the juries were also all white or mostly white and every trial. We're Doug Evans had used his peremptory strikes to exclude black people from the jury more than once. I started to wonder how often was Doug Evans doing this. How often was Evans striking black people office. Juries. It took so long to find the answer to that question. How we did it after the break. If you enjoy this show checkout believed, a new podcast about the women who brought down Dr Larry Nassar. He abused hundreds of women and girls, including many gymnasts for more than twenty years, the hosts Kate wells and Lindsay Smith show, you how it happened believed. A new limited run podcast from Michigan radio and NPR. Subscribe now at apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. I wanted to know how often DA Doug Evans and his office. We're striking black people off juries not just in the Curtis flowers trials, but in every single trial has office has handled for the entire time. You spent in office, but this was going to take a really long time to figure out because no one tracks this information. We would have to find it ourselves. Clearly we needed a plan. So I got on the phone with our data reporter will craft and he came up with one. My proposal is that we go courthouse by courthouse. We get the case file we see what information is available. Then we digitize all the information we build a database. We see what demographic information we can get. We create entries for every juror that seems both easily manageable in terrifying at the same time. Okay. So this sounds like something that we should get started on like two years. Oh, yes. For or today today. And so we started actually a reporter Parker. Yes. Go started in September. Parker moved to Mississippi started trying to track down the records at eight courthouses of all the criminal trials the whip before a jury in the fifth circuit court district since nineteen ninety two when Doug Evans took office as district attorney. So we're looking at a twenty five year period. And we wanted everything you wanted to know every trial prosecuted by his office since he was district attorney Steph, one Parker had to compile a list of every criminal trial that had occurred in the fifth circuit court district since nineteen Ninety-two because that kind of list doesn't exist. You can't just run a search in a computer and find out the names of all the trials or even how many trials there were. None of these courthouses have any list of stuff that's gone to trial. You have to make the list yourself. So Parker enlisted the help of the local clerks in each one of the courthouses. There was a clerk in Carroll county sugar Stanley think is his first name Stanley Mullins, but he goes by sugar. There was Brenda the deputy clerk invading Brenda king who'd worked there for like thirty years. Brenda new all the trials that had taken place. They're practically by heart. She could just fly through the book. Do you like that one? The clerks would bring pucker into a room and show her their docket books and these docket books. They're big leather bound books with handwritten entries for every criminal case. Every charge that made its way to the courts. It's a huge ledger. Humongous. I mean, maybe twenty four inches tall and like six inches thick maybe Harker had to scan through all the entries on every page of every docket book looking for any clue that a case had gone to trial. And so you're just like looking through this like muddled mess of black script after Parker gone through all the docket books. She had made her list of trials. There were four hundred eighteen of them four hundred eighteen trials over twenty five years in Doug Evans district. Step to Harker went looking for the jury lists. That would tell her the race of people who've been called for jury duty in each one of those four hundred eighteen trials, and she went looking for the transcripts of the jury selection, which would tell her why the potential jurors had been struck some of those records it turned out or kept in some really strange places in one courthouse. The files were stored in the old men's bathroom, the clerks told Parker not to go in there without a mask it smells like Ross who had like is just bubbling in Winston county the records were in an old jail cell. So I let let into jail she like made a point of being like this court has has never burnt down. So we have a lot of extra stuff here. Step three Harker had to take all. Of these records, all these papers from bathrooms jails and storage vaults, and turn them into something usable she needed to make copies of these records. But here's where she ran into a problem because the court clerks could make the copies for us. But if we did it that way, we'd be charged at least twenty five cents a page and Parker needed a copy at least one hundred thousand pages, which would mean that at minimum. This was going to cost twenty five thousand dollars. I was literally like I do not have access to that kind of cash. So Parker had an idea. She decided to buy a scanner that you brought it into Montgomery County courthouse. Why? No. And the clerks were like, wow you bought a scanner. They were like, hey reversal got us again. They were like totally game. The clerks agreed to let Parker move in with her scanner and start scanning away. Harker would go from courthouse to courthouse. She would set up her temporary office pull the records. She wanted and start scanning removing Staples. As she went remove staple scan remove staple scan with staple scan loading the scanner ripping Staples out with any extra time, like sorting the docket Harker kept going weeks and weeks passed our producer Raymond came down to Mississippi to help. So did well summer turned into fall. And Parker was still added scanning scanning scanning until one day. We have now scanned all trial files at all eight courthouses. It's done. How does that feel? It's amazing. I never wanna scan another document in my life. By the end of all this Harker had scanned more than one hundred fifteen thousand pages of court records. Parker put these files on a hard drive and gave it to our data reporter will craft and a few months later. We'll get back to us. So for basically, the last three months, I've just been going through court documents with the help of amazing number of people from the team reading through these court records. What will was looking for was every single peremptory strike that the DA's office had made of potential jurors and the race of every person's struck or seated on the jury, but in a lot of the court documents. There was no record of anyone's race out of the four hundred eighteen trials on our list. We only found race information for two hundred twenty five of them. So that's the number. We were working from two hundred and twenty five trials, then we went we went into a computer, and we typed the. Name of their race. And then who they were struck by whether or not they were struck by the state or the defense or whether or not they were chosen for jury duty will put all of this into a database that he built and then he analyzed all this data. He ran his methodology by statisticians. And then after all of that after three months of data entry and analysis and many months of Parker gathering all the raw materials Willis, finally ready to tell me what he'd found out about what Doug Evans and his office have been doing in jury selection in all those trials. So just the top level. Finding is from nineteen ninety two through two thousand seventeen over these two hundred and twenty-five trials covering a large number of crimes there exists. A very large disparity between the way that prosecutors exercise strikes against black and white jurors what will had found looking across all of these trials spanning. Twenty five years was a pattern of pattern of the DA's office under Doug Evans, tenure striking black jurors at a much higher rate than white jurors the prosecution struck black jurors at a rate almost four and a half times the rate at which they struck white jurors four and a half times the rate Doug Evans DA's office in the trials. We looked at striking black jurors at four and a half times the rate they struck white Gers put another way they struck fifty percent of all the black jerseys that came in front of them. And they only struck eleven percent of all the white. Jurors. Wow will had found that Doug Evans, DA's office had struck half of all lecturers and the trials he was able to look at and only eleven percent of all the white Gers. We don't know how Doug Evans district compares to other parts of Mississippi or how it compares to other parts of the country because no one tracks. This there have been a handful of studies, but they're limited to certain places or certain kinds of crimes, for example, study in North Carolina looked at all felony trials in twenty eleven and it found that prosecutors were striking black people off the jury at about twice the rate of white people studying Louisiana looked at jury selection in one parish found black people were being struck off juries and more than three times the rate of white people study in Philadelphia county, Pennsylvania legit capital murder trials over seventeen years and found that black people were struck off the jury at twice the rate of white people. What all of the studies on this have in common is that they all found that prosecutors are striking black people from juries disproportionate rates compared to white people. Just how big the gap was varied from place to place. But it was always there. This kind of research is so rare that when we'll start telling the researchers done these other studies what he was up to got pretty excited, and they asked will to publish the raw data which were doing on our website. Professor rose, literally said, welcome to the family. Really? She told me that I've joined the family, researchers have found racial discrimination in jury selection. That's true. I guess right. Yeah. We'll spend a lot of time analyzing the state, and he looked at it and all kinds of ways. So one of the things I was wondering about was are there certain types of crimes where you don't see this kind of difference in striking lectures, restricting white Gers like are there certain kind of scenario where you don't see this had that same question, and I wasn't able to find one you would think. Wow. At all of all the different surprise. And all the different ways I felt at the data. I could not find a scenario where they were struck at the same rate or the state struck more white jurors, I looked at capital murder violent crime drug offenses and burglary and crimes against properties. Every single one of those types of crimes striking black jurors at a higher rate will examine everything could think of to see whether there was something else that could explain our findings something else that could explain why the DA's office was striking black. Juries at a higher rate than white people some reason other than because they were black like, maybe the DA's office was striking potential jurors because of the specific answers they were giving jury selection. So we'll look into that. He looked at the questions. Jurors were asked do you have family members that are related to police have been the victim of a crime for death penalty cases did the juror express? Some kind of reservation about imposing the death penalty. And then we'll look at the answers potential jurors gave and controlled for those answers at the end of it. None of the made the importance of race go away black jurors are still more likely to be struck than white jurors, even when taking into account all of this other information, no matter how will ran the model. The conclusion was the same. Doug, Lavigne's office was striking black people from juries at a much higher rate than white people. Doug Evans office was engaging in a pattern a twenty five year pattern of preventing black people from serving on juries in this district, a twenty five year pattern of trial after trial where the jury box was mostly white black people entering the courtroom on trial for all kinds of things burglary, arson sexual assault murder and staring over at the jury box and realizing that this trial their fate in this small southern town was going to be decided mostly by white people. And it wasn't just that. But this data also meant was that across Doug Evans district. Black people were being disproportionately denied the opportunity to serve on juries black people were being denied the opportunity to be a part of this powerful process of determining someone's guilt. And this isn't just about whether or not the racist juror makes a difference in how that jurors sees a specific case which way they vote guilty or not. it's more fundamental than that to disproportionately exclude one group of people from serving on juries. It's like excluding one group of people from voting. It's denying people access to power in a democracy. And yet after years worth of reporting after collecting more than one hundred thousand pages of court records and looking at all the Stato. We've found out that that was exactly what was happening here in Doug Evans district under his direction. By this point in our reporting. We looked at all the main pieces of evidence in the case against Curtis flowers. We looked at all the trials of Curtis flowers and all these other trials to we'd found that the case against Curtis. Flowers was built on shaky evidence like questionable testimony from people who claim to have seen Curtis walking around town that morning and forensic evidence. But didn't hold up to scrutiny, and we talked to some people who told us that what they testified to in court wasn't true, including most importantly, Doug Evans, star witness. Odell cookie Hallman who told us he'd lied on the stand when he told the jurors that Curtis had confessed to the murders Atari furniture. It was time to talk to Doug Evans. I gave him a call at his office. But it couldn't reach him I stopped by his office. But he wasn't there. So I left a letter asking him to call me, but he didn't respond and so one day in April about two months ago, I decided to stop by his office again with our reporter Parker. Doug, Ivan's office is just off the square in downtown Grenada just a block or so from where the summer of nineteen sixty six people marched to demand civil rights. Doug Evans office is in a bland beige brick building in a row of bland brick buildings. There's a flat Brown sign to the right of the door. It says Doug Evans district attorney. Hello. We walked in and stood in the lobby lobby was small in cramped. No one was there. There was a big box of Manila, folders, various criminal cases. Just lying open on the ground a few feet from the door. The ceiling was low with fluorescent lights and the carpet was dirty. It looked like it had originally been of brownish yellow color. But it was so old. It was hard to tell parts of the carpet had been ripped up are coming off in sections being held down by black duct tape. The room is crammed full of furniture. Filing cabinets a copier fax machine. There was a long narrow hallway that led to the offices and the back. There's no good place to sit in the lobby. So we just stood there and waited. After a few minutes an employee came out from back office to check the fax machine. We were stopping by Mr.. The back there meet with victim Alameda with somebody. Okay. Can wait. Let me get you. Did are you the person talked to earlier all about Kurdish flower? Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Thanks. They ended today. We normally get people up here and everywhere, so we're not rush. So. Okay. All right. Well, I'll tell him you gonna white. They get out of there. I live here. Do you think? So we waited the walls were so thin that we could hear Doug Evans in a back room somewhere down the hallway, and we could hear the home of his assistant prosecutors and investigators answering the phone talking about cases. And then after about an hour so of waiting a man walked up the fall way, he had white hair that was parted on one side news, wearing khaki pants and a blue button down shirt that had the district attorney's insignia on it he stopped when he got to the entrance to the lobby and leaned one arm against the wall. It was Doug Evans Evans, Madeline Parker. Crato? I meet you. We're stopping by. Because we've been reporting on the case of Curtis flowers, and we wanted to talk to you about the case can't talk to about cases, still pending. See can't talk pending. On. It's finally over than can. But as long as it's pending. I can't go and Dana specs but case pending for so long. Doug, Evans, stayed in the entrance to the lobby. He didn't invite us back to his office. But you didn't walk away. Either. I've reporting on the case for about a year. And what about tucked a lot of people have talked a lot of the witnesses who testified at trial, and at what I would really like to do is just to sit down and go through what if found out and get your response to it and talk to you about it. We do that. Two family over the big lead to. There's some stuff I think you might wanna know though, a big lead to look things. But I'm not going to do the only thing that's made public. If there's something that, you know, about that, you think need to know would appreciate you getting it to me. But. News. The matter. What foam news is not the way detract cases. What's the right way courtroom? Have you had to talk a lot about the case over the years? Really, no, local reporters are anybody coming to talk to you for your little what do you make of that? That's the way it is no district. The news button. They usually report on who gets convicted and things like that. But the news around here normally didn't try to miss up cases. But putting the love stuff in the news like the do in some parts of the country. So, but it wouldn't mess up a case to talk about it. I thought it was remarkable that he decided to try the case six times. But I and said really wasn't that big of a deal. The number of times tried doesn't really make much difference at the time. I went to talk with Doug Evans, Evans, just received some validation from the Mississippi supreme court the court had denied courtesy towers direct appeal from his latest trial, that's the sixth one, and although that still left Curtis with other ways to appeal his conviction and death sentence. It did put Curtis closer to execution than he'd ever been before. So do you think this is going to ever be over? Might be pretty close. Now. It's closer to being over now than it ever has been. That's for sure. What be like when it's over. It's ever over. Block on any case, you just want to get them finalized. So are you confident that you have the right person that Curtis flowers is guilty. We'll answer definitely no question at all. And how come I'm not going to go through all the facts. But if you follow the trials anybody that can look at the facts can tell. That's. That's about all I can say only. Side read all the trial transcripts and looked at everything. And we talked a lot of jurors who said look, there's a reason we only deliberated for a little over an hour, or whatever case may be. But when you look at the individual pieces of evidence in really like pull them apart. It doesn't take very long for a lot of that to fall away. Like you look at some of the. If somebody tries to get it to. But if you look at the evidence, and what was there? It is very strong. I told Doug Evans that in the course of my reporting I'd found problems with the evidence in his case against Curtis flowers. When I looked at the case, it does strike me that the evidence is very weak against him. You get that. You hadn't looked at the if you think that they're witnesses who people who've given thing about this case. Any juror that I have heard except the ones that were lying to get on the jury. Haven't seen one yet that tried to? So you anyway, that evidence was not strong. Lied to get on the jury. Doug Evans, had just casually accuse people of lying to get on the jury he was accusing these unnamed jurors of a crime, and he did it in such an off hand way. As though it wasn't a big deal for the DA to level accusations of perjury in a death penalty case and Doug Evans wasn't done accusing unnamed people of crimes I tried to ask Doug Evans about Frederick veal a jailhouse informant. The one who told us and said in an affidavit that he'd worked with Evans and the sheriff to make up a story about Curtis flowers confessing to him. So that he could get a reward, and then he reversed himself after the first trial. How do you reconcile jailhouse niches like Frederick veal, for example, who reverses himself like when that happens? We'll could explain that to you. But I can't while it's on the record. Because there were a lot of illegal things that were done to get him to change his statement. I'm not going to go into that. Yes. By Curtis's defense, lawyers. That's a pretty serious charge would be. That you're not going to say what evidence is for that. Or who is? District attorney. So if you're not going to comment on Curtis's case at all that you are going to just accuse Curtis's accusing anybody told you that there were some illegal things that were done. That's all a mo- accusing anybody of anything. Doug Evans is the district attorney, and he was accusing people of crimes and he was doing it without providing any evidence. Because Doug Evans is the DA if he was aware of crime taking place in his district. He would most likely have the ability to prosecute it. I told Doug Evans that talked to a lot of people who'd been interviewed by law enforcement in the case. But Doug Evans didn't wanna hear what they've told me. Whatever they won't. Know of anybody that we put on the stand it. We didn't tape statements. So things whatever they want to. And you may twist or get them to say something that you want them to. But we go by the facts a lot of folks that have been trying to either make money off of this case or stir people up over this case have put a lot of false statements. And that's one reason that I would never talk about the facts of the case to anybody until it's over if they want the facts, they can read the transcripts. I decided ask Doug Evans. A really simple question. Do you think that all of your witnesses have told the truth? I'm not going to go into that. That's a pretty basic question. Right. It's lot of basic questions, but they get start getting into Fags. Well, we were talking an employee of the DA's office had come out of a back office. And it was now standing behind. Doug, Evans, holding a form that he needed him to sign if we might have another minute or two at the most. So I decided to use that time to tell Doug Evans, but his star witness del Haman, head recanted. Because I wanted to know what he'd make of that. And whether he'd have any questions for me about it because del homes testimony is so important in the case against Curtis flowers. One person who's reversed themselves who's told us that he lied under oath is dull home. Which which version for the defense and the first one? He has told us that Curtis flowers never confessed to him. Could tell you some things off the record, but it won't own here. He told us the truth. It doesn't concern you that he would say that. Now. No, that's why the judge in strokes. The jury that a jailhouse informant is not very reliable because they can change their statements very easily for eating reason that you can't use them. You you consider him reliable enough to use the statement that he gave in court on the sure was to truth before we used it. So that you aren't there when he for this exchange that he says took place between him in Curtis. Right. Oh, I can tell you is that I made sure that it was true. Good that. I'll I'll tell you off the record now. I mean, I think it's it's a public case, right? You're the elected district attorney. Oh, I can tell you that. I made sure it was the truth. No. It was true. At this point the man behind Evans cut in. I've got to go. Sorry. Just Devon's turned away from us. He talked to me for just eleven minutes. Now he was walking away. I still had so many questions for him. I wanted to show him our findings on jury selection. I wanted to ask him about the gun. He claimed was the murder weapon. I wanted to ask him about those route witnesses the people who testified that they'd seen Curtis walking around town that morning, just you're busy. But I really would like to talk with you some more because I want to understand your thinking on the case. And I also want you to understand this. We're going to be. Glad to talk to you off the record about some of the things, but nothing that is gonna come on the record and Doug Evans kept walking back down the hallway to his office. Can we come back like Wednesday morning and just and just talk? About this case like just need a coal in Kansas like likely. Okay. All right. Thank you. A call Doug Evans that Wednesday and stop by his office and have called him many times since then, but he hasn't responded I wrote him and detailed letter with a long list of questions. Doug Evans, didn't respond with any answers. I did get a brief letter from him about a month ago in response to a public records request. We'd made for information on the criminal record of Odell Hallman in the letter. Doug, Evans, said that because Mississippi law does not require him to release that information. He would not be releasing it? Doug Evans was done answering questions. Doug Evans, didn't explain why he pursued the case against Curtis lowers despite the evidence being weak. Doug Evans, didn't explain why he tried Curtis six times. And he didn't explain why his office had struck black people from the juries in one trial after another for twenty five years. Doug Evans didn't have to explain himself. And so he didn't. And there's one more thing that Doug Evans, didn't explain. And that was why the investigation settled so quickly on Curtis flowers in the first place. Why Curtis who was telling them to look at Curtis? That's next time on in the dark. In the dark is reported and produced by me, Madeline, baron senior producer Samara free. Mark producer, Natalie chip Lonski, associate producer, Raymond Tunga, car and reporters Parker. Yes. Go and we'll craft in the dark is edited. By Kathryn winter web. Editors are Dave man, an anti cruise the editor in chief of APM reports is Chris Worthington. Original music by Gary Meister, and Johnny Adams this episode was mixed by Corey Schrapel, archival news recordings courtesy of ABC news. He had a lot more about our analysis of jury selection on our website in the dark podcast dot org. We have an explanation of how we did it and we've got a visualization of every juror. We gathered race data on in our database. I'll six thousand seven hundred sixty three of them. We've got some great videos up there too. Again, that's in the dark podcast dot org. This is a nonprofit public radio podcast, which means were supported by you, our listeners show your support with the donation of any amount at in the dark, podcast dot org slash donate.

Coming up next