Curtis Flowers has been found guilty on all four capital murder counts. No surprise there, but I wasn’t prepared for a twenty-seven minute jury (non)deliberation. That’s right, twenty-seven minutes. Hardly long enough to pick a jury foreman.
The courtroom quickly filled up with the kind of folks who have been leaving derogatory comments on our blog. One older man rushed up the courthouse steps as I was emailing supporters. “I guess I’m late,” I heard him say, “but maybe not.”
“They’re just starting the sentencing phase,” another man replied.
“That’s the part I’m looking for,” the first man exulted.
He will have to wait until tomorrow morning. The defense put on an elaborate and lengthy mitigation case highlighted by the testimony of corrections expert James Aiken. He testified that he had to sit down with Curtis Flowers for two face-to-face meetings because he couldn’t believe that a man locked up for almost fourteen years doesn’t have a single disciplinary write-up. Aiken testified that manipulative inmates can put up a good front for a short time, but anyone who holds up for over a decade is an exceptional inmate.
The disconnect was almost surreal. There is a very good reason why Curtis Flowers has a discipline record bordering on the miraculous–he is 100% innocent. He simply doesn’t fit the killer profile. His detractors have done a good job of demonizing Mr. Flowers over the years, but anyone who has sat down with the man (as I did for forty-five minutes Wednesday night) can’t help but be impressed with his gentle faith and quiet confidence.
The sentencing hearing got under way with several representatives of the victims families testifying. The room was in tears as Roxanne Ballard explained that her children were too young in 1996 to know the woman she used to be. One of Carmen Rigby’s sons talked about the horror of losing a mother on the verge of college. The grief in the room was palpable.