(This post is part of a series concerning Curtis Flowers, an innocent man convicted of a horrific crime that has divided a small Mississippi town. Information on the Flowers case can be found here.)
James Bibbs’ perjury trial has been postponed. Jury selection was originally scheduled to begin on Tuesday, July 28th. (You can find background material for this post here.)
The Jackson Clarion-Ledger may be ignoring state senator Lydia Chassaniol’s intimate ties to one America’s most racist organizations, but the paper has been faithfully following the Bibbs case. Earlier this year, Chassaniol sponsored legislation designed to expand the jury pool in the Curtis Flowers case to a five-county district (Flowers is pictured to the left). Current law stipulates that a defendant has a constitutional right to stand trial in his or her county of residence.
Because Montgomery County is over 50% black, it will inevitably produce more black jurors than most Mississippi counties. Moreover, the Flowers family has a reputation in the African American community as stable, religious and friendly. As a result, most black jurors are open to the possibility that Curtis Flowers might be innocent. After five murder trials and three convictions, it is difficult to find a white resident of socially segregated Winona who doesn’t think the case against Flowers is overwhelming.
This racial perception gap is evident in the comments section at the end of the Clarion-Ledger article. Those who think Flowers murdered Bertha Tardy and three other innocent people in 1996 also tend to believe that juror James Bibbs is guilty of perjury. Readers who think the case against Flowers is weak see Bibbs as the victim of a vindictive prosecutor.
“It’s a shame race has been used to prohibit justice in this case,” one reader writes. “This is about a violent animal with no compassion for anyone that took the lives of innocent people. Everyone (black and white) should be united in bringing these animals to justice not matter the race. This could happen to any of us as long as thugs like Flowers are allowed to walk free. With the overwhelming evidence in this case and the fact that he has already been tried and convicted three times should be enough for anyone. Instead we continue to waste taxpayer money on technicalities. What a farce.”
Another reader disagrees:
NO, that is NOT the way the justice system is supposed to work. You do not base your decision or vote on past trials and juries. I don’t know if he is guilty or not. However I do know the verdict should be based on evidence presented during this trial alone.
A third person thinks DA Doug Evans prosecuted juror Bibbs as tactic of intimidation:
It appears to me that they are trying to send a message to the next group that serve on the jury that if you don’t find Flowers guilty you could be charged with the same charges as Bibbs! It won’t work! People will vote the way they see it! I agree when you prosecute someone on the thin evidence here, it could send an unfortunate message that people are being prosecuted because of the way they vote on the jury. That is completely improper. Only in Mississippi! It’s time for the Feds to come in and clean this up!
Did Curtis Flowers casually massacre four innocent people in a furniture store and then go about his business as if nothing had happened? If so, he defintely fits the “violent animal” profile.
But what if the “violent animal” shoe doesn’t fit?
Prior to the Tardy murders, Curtis was known as a goodnatured gospel singer. Since being locked up in 1996, Flowers has been a model prisoner best known for leading the singing at worship services.
I recently talked to a prison guard who has been watching Flowers carefully for several years and is convinced the man isn’t capable of committing such a heinous crime.
“He ’bout one of the finest young men I’ve ever seen in my whole life,” the guard told me. “He’s one of the nicest people ever put on a pair of pants. He goes to church, he’s free-hearted, he’d give you his last dime. He doesn’t look like somebody who did the crime. He sleeps sound. If you puttin’ on, there’ll be a time when you slip up.”
According to the guard, other prisoners frequently remark that Curtis doesn’t fit the killer profile.
But I digress.
You may be wondering why the perjury trial of James Bibbs was postponed at the eleventh hour?
When Judge Joseph Loper hauled Mr. Bibbs into court and pronounced him guilty of perjury, the case should have been turned over to the Attorney General’s office. Bibbs had just robbed prosecutor Doug Evans of a long-sought conviction and Evans could hardly be seen as objective. Moreover, Evans was a potential fact witness at trial. Eventually, the case was turned over the Mississippi AG’s office and handed down to the first prosecutor with the time to take it.
Unlike DA Evans, the new prosecutor has nothing personal against the defendant; he’s just doing his job. Defense attorney Rob McDuff suggested that the AG’s office should take a good hard look at this case before proceeding. The special prosecutor agreed to do that.
That’s all we know at present and I’m not inclined to read any deeper meaning into the postponement. I will be writing more about the background of the Flowers case in the near future. In addition to the post cited earlier, you can find more information about the deep social cleavage in Winona here, here and here.