Death penalty sought in slaying of 2 Mississippi officers

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Mississippi prosecutor confirms he will seek the death penalty for a man indicted in the 2018 shooting deaths of two police officers.

Marquis Flowers, 26, on Tuesday made his first appearance in state court since being indicted on capital murder charges, and he pleaded not guilty. The indictments were handed down Oct. 28 but were first publicly released Tuesday.

Brookhaven Police Department Cpl. Zach Moak, 31, and Patrolman James White, 35, were shot to death Sept. 29, 2018, while responding to a call about shots being fired at a home.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

District Attorney Dee Bates said after Tuesday’s hearing that he will pursue the death penalty. Prosecutors previously said that was a possibility.

A trial could be at least several months away. Bates said prosecutors are awaiting results of ballistics tests from the state crime lab. He also said a judge will decide later whether the case will be tried in Lincoln County, where the shootings occurred.

Judges sometimes move high-profile cases to other counties. They also sometimes decide to choose jurors in another county and bring them to the place where a crime occurred to hear the case.

Flowers is already in state prison. He has previous felony convictions but was out when the officers were killed. His parole was revoked after he was arrested in the killings.

During his brief court appearance, he was accompanied by two attorneys who are public defenders. The only time Flowers spoke was when Circuit Judge Michael Taylor asked if Flowers was filing a sworn statement saying he cannot afford to hire an attorney.

“Yes, sir,” Flowers answered.

His attorneys entered the not-guilty pleas on his behalf.

Some relatives of the two slain officers were in the courtroom, but court officials said the relatives did not want to speak to reporters. The relatives were allowed to leave the courtroom before the few other spectators.

Brookhaven is a city of about 12,200 people, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of Jackson. In 2017, a sheriff’s deputy and seven other people were shot to death in and near Brookhaven; another man awaits trial in those killings.

A Mississippi Bureau of Investigation officer, Luke Harrington, testified during a preliminary hearing in January that a body camera showed Flowers shooting and killing the officers. White was shot in the head and Moak was shot in the body.

In January, Harrington testified that Flowers told him in an interview that “the cops were caught in my crossfire.” Harrington testified that Flowers had already been wounded by gunfire before officers arrived, but police found nobody else at the scene.

Flowers was previously convicted of auto burglary charges in south Mississippi’s Lincoln and Pike counties. He was charged in Natchez with taking away a motor vehicle and four counts of auto burglary, fleeing from authorities in a high-speed chase in February 2017. He later turned himself in. Released on bail, Flowers was a fugitive at the time of the Brookhaven shootings after failing to appear for a court date.

Flowers’ parole was revoked after the Brookhaven officers were killed and he is in custody in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.