Federal judge orders Mississippi to retry death row inmate after alleged bias in jury selection

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Mississippi will have to retry a death row inmate barring a successful appeal following a Tuesday ruling by a federal judge.

First reported by the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills is ordering the state to conduct a new trial for death row inmate Terry Pitchford, 37, largely due to an alleged history of discriminatory practices in the jury selection process by former District Attorney Doug Evans.

Evans, a former prosecutor who lost a local circuit court judge election in 2022, is infamous for trying Curtis Flowers six times for the same crime and was recently blasted by the U.S. Supreme Court for excluding Black jurors in each trial.

In short, Flowers was accused of killing four people at the Tardy Furniture store in Winona in 1996 and convicted of capital murder the next year. Evans sought the death penalty for Flowers, which resulted in the inmate spending 23 years in prison at Parchman. Flowers was set free and awarded $500,000 over 10 years in 2020 after the state dropped the charges against him.

Circling back to Pitchford, the death row inmate was convicted on a capital murder charge stemming from a 2004 robbery and fatal shooting at Crossroads Grocery, a store just outside of Grenada. Pitchford allegedly aided Eric Bullins in the death of Reuben Britt, the store’s owner.

After police discovered a firearm owned by Britt in Pitchford’s home, the suspect fessed up to his role in the deadly crime and admitted that he had attempted to rob the store on another occasion a little less than two weeks prior.

Pitchford, in a case that was prosecuted by Evans, was indicted, tried, and convicted of capital murder, and the jury found that he should be executed by lethal injection in 2006.

However, the federal judge noted that the process of selecting jurors in Pitchford’s case was faulty. On the final jury, 35 white members and just one Black member were able to determine whether or not to give Pitchford the death penalty.

Though the state provided reasons for the dismissals, attorneys for the inmate claim that they were not given adequate time to attempt to counter the justifications given by the state. Mills ultimately sided with the attorneys’ qualms.

The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office plans to appeal Mills’ ruling. If the judge’s order is upheld, the state will have six months to retry Pitchford or he will be released back into the public.

The post Federal judge orders Mississippi to retry death row inmate after alleged bias in jury selection appeared first on SuperTalk Mississippi.