After his January 1997 arrest for the murders at Tardy Furniture, Curtis Flowers was held in the Leflore County Jail in Greenwood, Mississippi. While he waited for his October trial, he shared a cell with as many as eight inmates. Nearly all of them were questioned by John Johnson, an investigator for the district attorney, after spending time with Flowers. Two of them — Frederick Veal and Maurice Hawkins — would be subpoenaed by the state to testify at Flowers' first trial.
Both testified that Flowers had confessed to them during late-night chats, though none of their cellmates said they heard it happen. Veal and Hawkins later recanted, saying they'd offered information about Flowers in exchange for a deal.
The following text is what happened inside that cell, according to interviews and sworn affidavits from some of the men who were there. It's been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Timmy Haymore, sentenced to 10 years for manslaughter: I went in in 1996. I was the only man in the cell at first. Curtis Flowers came in right behind me. After his arrest, he stayed in the Winona jail, I think, two days. Then they transferred him to the Greenwood jail, and they locked him up with me.
Morgan McClurg, sentenced to 20 years for burglary and grand larceny: I think they were afraid that, if they put him in the Winona jail in Montgomery County, if anybody wanted to get to him, all they had to do was get a public disorderly or public intoxication, go to jail and then be right there with him and be able to do something. I think for his safety, they wanted him kept away.
Haymore: We were in Cell 2. Curtis stayed right over me. I was on the bottom rack, Curtis was on the top rack. He always sat by himself on the edge of that rack, just mind wandering. One day, I said, "Curtis, man, you better get up and move around. It's gonna be alright." I didn't know what he was charged with. And he didn't say nothing right that day. A couple days later, I said, "Man, get out of that bed and come and play a game. Sometimes it's better to let it out than to hold it in." I asked him, "What are you charged with Curtis?" And he said, four capital murders. I was looking at him, trying to see a reaction. And he sat there and he said, "Lord knows best. I didn't do this." That's what he said. And tears were coming out of his eyes. He said, "I don't know why they charged me with it. I didn't do this." You can feel, if you're human, you can feel when a person is telling the truth and telling a lie.
McClurg: I got locked up for being dumb on one of them drunk nights. Burglary, grand larceny. I think it was some chainsaws and little lawn mower things. Just some little junk no one would even really miss, but when they caught me, they threw it all on me at one time. I ended up getting 20 years.
Haymore: If Curtis couldn't talk to you about the word of God, Curtis wouldn't talk to you at all. He read books, he wrote letters. I know he wrote five, six letters a week — to his sister, his family, his mama. They always sent him a letter back. Encouraged him to be strong. Cause he never been locked up before. You can lose your mind behind the bars, looking at them walls 24/7. At first, it was me and him. We picked up some more guys ... two, four, six, about eight.
McClurg: It was a six-man cell, maybe 9-foot wide by 10- to 12-foot long. Maybe a little bit bigger, but you also had a shower in there, the bathroom was in there and the sink was in there.
Haymore: All of us were in there together. Anything going on, we would see it or know about it. Anybody walked by, we had to touch one another, you know, just bump and whatever.
McClurg: It had three sets of bed bunks: two bunks on one wall, two bunks on another wall, two bunks on another wall. There was at least two of us sleeping on the floor. During the day, whoever slept on the floor would pick their mattresses and blankets up and fold them up. We'd use them as chairs or whatever. You could lay a piece of cardboard across where we could play cards and dominoes on a makeshift table top.
Haymore: Really, Curtis wouldn't talk to nobody but me. He always talked about the Bible and his mother and father.
McClurg: He was one of the nicest guys there. He was always polite. He kept to himself. If he had something you needed, he'd let you borrow it. He never got mad at anybody, never raised his voice. I think I told investigators that from talking to him, I just couldn't see him doing it. You never know what's going through a person's mind, but the way he portrayed himself in there, it just blew my mind that he could have done it. I really thought he was going to get off. I was more comfortable with Curtis than I was with some of the other guys in there.
Haymore: You gotta know who to fool with and not to fool with in jail. I ain't never fooled with Maurice Hawkins, cause I knew Maurice from the street. Maurice had broken into my car a few years earlier and ever since then, I ain't fooled with him. Real skinny. About my height. And Mr. Veal, I've known him all my life.
Frederick Veal, arrested for grand larceny, but his sister dropped the charges: I've got a misdemeanor record longer than Texas, over 100-some misdemeanors. I been locked up a lot of times. Possession of marijuana. All kinds of stuff.
Haymore: Veal was in for stealing. He'd do anything to get out of jail. See, jail ain't like out in the street. It's a different ball game when you're on the other side of them doors. People don't understand if they've never been there. You don't talk to people about your case.
McClurg: Most of the drug heads know that if they get caught doing something, they can snitch on somebody else and get away. A lot of people know.
Veal: I wrote Sheriff Ricky Banks a letter. I knew him. My dad was a paralegal for 15-some years, and I used to do a little work, odd jobs, around the courthouse. I said, "Man, you need to help me get out."
Ricky Banks, sheriff of Leflore County since 1980: Veal was just a small-time guy. He was in trouble, in and out. It wasn't nothing like murder or armed robbery or anything like that. It was just small crimes.
Veal: He called me out, shackled me down and had me brought to talk to him. He said, "I got something for you to do." He said, "I'm gonna put you in the cell with Curtis Flowers and if you can get some information out of him — that he did that murder — I'll let you go."
Banks: I'd have to look back. The Curtis Flowers case wasn't my case. I know that there was an inmate during that short time that we held Flowers. An inmate that came forward and said that Flowers told him that he did the shooting. But I don't know that that was Frederick Veal right off hand because it's been so long ago.
Veal: He said, "Mr. Veal, I can work with you if you help me. ... I can help you get out of here." I said, "Well, I'd do anything to get out of here. I don't want to sit up in this jail, man." So he said, "See if you can get him to give you a confession." And I said, "Well okay. I don't know him. I'll go in and talk to him and see can I get something out of him." He told me to pack my stuff, and he put me in the cell the same day.
McClurg: Veal wasn't in our cell maybe three nights. I know it wasn't very long. I just don't see Curtis talking to him and telling him that.
Veal: I don't even think he spoke to me. I never seen him a day in my life. He seemed like he just a laid-back type of guy. Didn't talk much. He was to himself. I didn't ask him nothing. No, no. I didn't try.
McClurg: I didn't see the confession happen. Supposedly they're playing dominoes at 4 o'clock in the morning when everybody's asleep. There ain't no room for that to transpire. At night, you had all of the beds full plus two or three people sleeping on the floor. They would have had to have been basically snuggled up on his bunk or something.
Haymore: I knew it wasn't true cause I was in there. It ain't bigger than a bathroom. All of us couldn't stand up in the middle floor together. If somebody says something you're going to hear it.
McClurg: Veal talked to the sheriff or one of the deputies, you know, gave a statement. I don't know what transpired after that, but I don't think he came back to our cell.
Veal: After a week, he called me back down. He said, "What did you get from Curtis?" I said, "Naw, he ain't talking. I couldn't get nothing out of him." So he said, "I tell you what, I'm going to let you go if you work with us." They knew I was desperate to get out. I said, "I'm down with you. I want to get out. Let's run it." He said, "I'll let you go today."
Haymore: I was there when they let him go. I was shocked. They just told him to come back upstairs and get his stuff. Everybody said he snitched on somebody to get out. I know he wasn't telling the truth.
McClurg: One morning, Veal was gone. After that, they started questioning, you know, talking to everybody about the statement. I think the main thing they was asking me was if I had overheard Curtis tell Frederick what Frederick said.
Haymore: I stayed locked up with Curtis until I went to prison in Rankin County. When I got ready to go, me and him shook hands, we hugged one another, we prayed together. I held his hand, like men, and we prayed together. And they called me out to take me to prison. I told Curtis, "Keep your head up." And that's the last time I seen him.