WINONA, Miss. — For the first time in more than 20 years, Curtis Flowers will be allowed to return home to his family.
Throughout a decades-long legal saga – as Flowers was tried six times for the same crime – he stayed behind bars, shuttling between the Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman prison, and local jails.
On Monday, a judge granted him bond, allowing Flowers to leave jail to live with his family in Winona while his case makes its way through court. His bail was set at $250,000, and electronic monitoring of Flowers is required.
On Monday, the 49-year-old former death row inmate appeared before Judge Joseph Loper for a bond hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse, less than a mile from where four furniture store employees were shot in the head, execution-style, in summer 1996.
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The quadruple homicide shocked Winona, a town of less than 6,000 people in central Mississippi, and has continued to make waves across the country as Flowers was tried six times for the murders – an unprecedented record in modern U.S. history, legal experts have said.
Citing racism in jury selection: Supreme Court overturns conviction of Curtis Flowers, who was tried 6 times for murder
Two of Flowers' trials ended in hung juries. He was found guilty of the crimes in four trials, but the convictions were each later overturned by higher courts.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Flowers' most recent conviction because justices found Fifth Circuit District Attorney Doug Evans racially discriminated during jury selection.
At the hearing, Flowers' attorney, Rob McDuff with the Mississippi Center for Justice, argued not only that Flowers deserves bond, but that the judge is legally required to grant it.
McDuff pointed to a state law that says anyone who's been tried twice for a capital offense, and each trial has resulted in a failure of the jury to agree on the defendant's guilt or innocence, shall be entitled to bail.
He also says information uncovered by investigative reporters with APM Reports' podcast "In The Dark" – including statements by key witnesses admitting to lying and evidence pointing to alternate suspects – casts enough doubt on the case to require bail to be granted under the Mississippi Constitution.
McDuff argued that Flowers, who had no prior criminal record and was described as a model inmate by prison staff, does not pose a danger to the community and he won't try to flee if bonded out.
Who is Doug Evans?: More about the Mississippi district attorney who tried Curtis Flowers six times
Flowers could be tried for a seventh time for the quadruple homicide – it's up to Evans, the district attorney, to decide. Flowers' attorney has filed a motion asking the judge to quash a potential seventh trial and to dismiss the charges against Flowers.
What happened in the Tardy Furniture murders?
On the morning of July 16, 1996, Tardy Furniture's owner and three employees were shot in the head, execution-style.
The victims were Bertha Tardy, 59, Carmen Rigby, 45, Roberty Golden, 42, and 16-year-old Derrick Stewart, who was known as "Bobo." All were dead at the scene, except for Derrick, who fought for his life for several days until he succumbed to his injuries.
The evidence investigators gathered at the scene included a bloody footprint and bullets. Nearly $400 was missing from the cash drawer.
Police arrested Flowers several months later. He was indicted on four counts of capital murder.
Flowers had worked at the store for a short time before being fired, and prosecutors have portrayed Flowers as a disgruntled employee who was out for revenge.
Follow Alissa Zhu on Twitter: @AlissaZhu
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Curtis Flowers free on bond after 20 years, six trials for murder