Wrong Man episode 3 recap: ‘Curtis Flowers: Trial and Error’


Wrong Man episode 3 examines the case of Curtis Flowers — accused of a 1996 murder spree in Winona, Mississippi. He was tried 6 times for the murders. Did he do it?

When Bertha Tardy and three of her employees were murdered in her furniture store, it was said to be “execution-style,” or “gangland-style.” The initial reason cited for blaming Curtis?

He had been fired a few days before the shooting. Eventually, some witnesses claimed they saw him walking from the scene, and not long after the murders.

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The big question is, what is the physical evidence? There was one particle of gunshot residue on Flower’s hand. Other than that, no weapon was ever found. So, where could a single particle have come from?

According to the Wrong Man team — which includes two detectives, a civil rights attorney, and a prosecutor — Flowers could have got such residue from the police car.

Wrong Man, Starz

The other evidence? In Curtis Flower’s home, a Fila “Grant Hill” size 10½ shoe box was found. This is said to match footprints found at the crime scene. However, it was a popular brand of shoe, and Flower’s girlfriend claims they belonged to her son. In fact, Curtis was known to wear Nike running shoes, not Fila.

More generally, does having a shoe box make someone a suspect? Personally, I have a shoe box or two in my place. They’re not “Grant Hill” Fila shoes, but the point is, it doesn’t really prove anything to possess a shoe box.

Unless it can be linked directly to a crime scene, it says nothing about one’s guilt or innocence! So, unless blood was found on Flower’s shoes, it is circumstantial evidence at best.

Mississippi History

In Trial and ErrorWrong Man enlists two additional members — Charlie Saums, a Private Investigator, and Alan Bean, the Executive Director of Friends of Justice. As they examine Winona, Mississippi, they look into its history, which isn’t entirely pretty.

As an obvious example, Winona is where civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer was falsely arrested, savagely beaten and assaulted in 1963 (not all that long ago).

Has the town changed since then? Well, if it has, Saums and Bean aren’t able to learn about it. Almost everywhere they go, no one wants to talk to them. In fact, some people seem afraid, or like they have something to hide.

When Saums and Bean visit the scene of the crime (now an antique store), the owner locks them out, and angrily scolds Bean by saying: “For the record, it’s not a junk store, it’s an antique store.” In other words, it’s not the most flattering greeting — nor the most flattering image for Winona, Mississippi (where’s the “Southern hospitality?”)

The Curtis Flowers Trial History

Should one particle be enough to convict? (Wrong Man, Starz)

Given that there have been 6 trials, there’s almost no way Wrong Man could get all of the trial details. However, the general rundown is this:

  • The first 2 trials were suffered from prosecutorial misconduct
  • Trial 3 suffered from racial bias issues in the Jury.
  • Trials 4 and 5 deadlocked.

In one retrial, some black jurors were screened out for objecting to the death penalty. This always complicates a case, as it means death penalty opponents can’t be on juries — at least not without lying about their views.

The other weird — perhaps baffling — aspect of the trials? The same prosecutor, Doug Evans, has been behind them for 21 years! Now, regardless of how one feels about the case, wouldn’t it make sense to have someone else at the helm at some point?

Even if Flowers were guilty, wouldn’t it make the trial seem more fair, as opposed to one prosecutor continually going after this guy?

Why Don’t People Want to Talk?

Wrong Man witnesses a number of allegations. A dramatic one, for example, is that Curtis Flower’s parents had their house burn down. They claim they received a threat of another house fire, by someone attending the trial.

Unfortunately, there are allegations of racism among Jury members, too. To address that, some argue the Jury should be equally black and white. Either way, this episode makes it seem too much like 1963.

When Wrong Man‘s Ira Todd tries to interview a murder scene first responder, he doesn’t answer. Then he swears at Ira over the phone, and even calls the cops. There’s this sensation of a shadow over everyone, like an unseen force.

It seems like more people would be willing to talk about the murder. Not only could they share their opinions, but they could shed light on any misconceptions about a murder case. Not only that, but they’d get their 15 minutes of fame!

Highly Flawed Witness Testimony

As with the Evaristo Salas case, Wrong Man addresses the faulty nature of eyewitness testimony.

For example, some say they saw Curtis Flowers wearing black pants. Others say brown pants. Some say he was running, others that he was walking. Basically, there’s no clear picture of what Curtis Flowers looked like, what he was doing, or why he was identified. One possible reason for his being the main suspect?

The photo lineup for witnesses shows Curtis more prominently than other suspects!

One of the major witnesses, Clemmie Fleming, declined to be interviewed by Wrong Man (of course!). Interestingly, though, they interview Clemmie’s sister, who flat out states that Clemmie was with her at the time, and not near the murder scene.

If that’s not enough, she claims Clemmie was offered money for providing evidence — and she never even got it!

Specifically, there was a poster offering a $30,000 reward for evidence. The strange thing is, most of the witnesses came out 3-9 months after the murders occurred! These witnesses were specifically asked if they saw Curtis Flowers.

There’s a problem with that, though: If they said “Yes, I saw Curtis Flowers,” it may have been because they had a shot at getting money. On top of that, Clemmie’s ex-boyfriend also claims she lied.

No Smoking Gun: Curtis’s Uncle, Doyle Simpson

Doyle Simpson’s car. (Wrong Man, Starz)

Unlike the original investigators, Wrong Man considers another,  arguably more likely suspect: Doyle Simpson, Curtis Flowers’ uncle. Interestingly, Simpson reported his gun missing on the day of the shootings. This led police to suspect Curtis Flowers of the murder. At the same time, Curtis didn’t have a remarkable, verified alibi.

This means he might have known where the gun was and might have been able to commit the murder. Of course, might is not always mighty. Again, where is the forensic evidence proving that Curtis did the murder, or even stole his uncle’s gun? One witness, Catherine Snow, didn’t actually see the gun taken from the car by Curtis, though she claims she saw him leaning on his uncle’s vehicle.

Another question Wrong Man asks: Why would Doyle Simpson testify about his gun being missing when it was an illegally acquired firearm?

In fact, Wrong Man suggests that Doyle himself is a better suspect than Curtis Flowers. Doyle Simpson had a criminal history involving drugs. In this episode, his sister even says he wasn’t at work that morning.

Also, after the murder, it’s said that Doyle withdrew from family life. Flowers, on the other hand, was not known to have any criminal background, was known to be genial and non-violent and had been fired from jobs before without violent reactions.

Of course, seeming nice shouldn’t rule someone out as a suspect. For example, Ted Bundy once worked for a Suicide Hotline Crisis Center and reportedly wrote a pamphlet for women on rape prevention for the Seattle Crime Prevention Advisory Commission.

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Nevertheless, there is surprisingly little evidence against Curtis Flowers, and they may indeed have the wrong man.

What are your thoughts on the Curtis Flowers case and this episode of “Wrong Man”? Let us know in the comments!