Till I Turn to Dust

Willie Manning’s second conviction (the 1993 murder of two elderly African American ladies, Emmoline Jimmerson and Alberta Jordan) has been very much overshadowed by his recent narrow escape from execution for his first conviction (the 1992 murder of two white students). On Friday, though, Willie’s second case was mentioned in several Mississippi newspapers: the judge now considering that case, Oktibbeha County Circuit Judge Lee Howard, asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to allow him till June 28 to file his ruling on Willie’s post-hearing memorandum. The ruling will not bring Willie into immediate danger: he could appeal through the federal system if Mississippi courts rule against him (see The Mississippi Press).

Convictions for two double murders will suggest to many that Willie must be guilty of at least one of these terrible crimes. But there is another way of looking at it. As Clive Stafford Smith put it in his article about Willie in the New Statesman:

“The prosecutor in his case managed to get juries to vote for no fewer than four death sentences on Willie, in two separate trials, just in case executing him once did not do the job.”

So, Willie had the same prosecutor in both his cases. Much has already been written about this prosecutor, Forrest Allgood, and his history of securing convictions which have later been overturned. He features in Radley Balko’s ‘Rogues’ gallery of misbehaving prosecutors’, which can be seen at reason.com. In the Chicago Huffington Post David Protess raises the question of Allgood’s accountability if Willie were to be executed without DNA testing. Allgood’s reputation is unlikely to inspire confidence in defendants facing him in court in one case, let alone in two.

Willie’s convictions are linked not only by Allgood’s involvement, but by the large number of questionable issues in both cases. In the first case, as we have been hearing over the last two weeks, there are issues of ‘false snitch testimony, junk science, and racial bias’ (see The ACLU’s blog).

In the second case the main issues to be raised are:

  • the State failed to disclose evidence favorable to Willie (it did not disclose crime lab notes about the shoe size of a print found at the murder scene, which was several sizes smaller than Willie’s shoes).
  • the State presented false evidence (it did not disclose law enforcement notes showing that the key witness’s essential testimony was false, as the apartment where he claimed to have lived, and from where he stated that he observed Willie, was empty at the time).

There are clearly many issues in both cases that need to be clarified. For Willie, though, this will not happen quickly: his best hope is that he will be allowed to continue lengthy legal proceedings while awaiting the outcome in his tiny cell. It is indeed fortunate that he has the determination and strength to keep fighting to clear his name.

 “I won’t stop fighting until I clear my name or turn to dust. Whichever comes first. My spirit has not been broken and my focus is as clear as ever.” Willie Manning: July 24 2012

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