Symptoms of a Wrongful Conviction

Last month the Mississippi Supreme Court  received two Amicus Curiae (Friends of the Court) briefs in connection with one of Willie Jerome Manning’s cases, the 1993 case involving two elderly ladies. The briefs, from the Innocence Network and the National Registry of Exonerations, alert the Court to aspects of this case that frequently appear in wrongful convictions.

The Innocence Network notes five ‘symptoms’ of a wrongful conviction in Willie’s 1993 case:

  • “perjured witness testimony
  •  incentivized witness testimony
  •  inaccurate forensics
  •  a recanting witness
  •  State suppression of exculpatory evidence”.

It supports its claim by referring to a study by the National Institute of Justice, which examined 460 cases and identified the systemic failures that are most likely to lead to wrongful convictions; these failures all occur in Willie’s case.

The National Registry of Exonerations reiterates the constitutional breaches noted by the Innocence Network, and cites additional factors as cause for concern:

  • “Mr. Manning was sentenced to death. Exonerations are concentrated among death sentences.
  •  Mr. Manning was convicted of murdering two women. Murder cases with female victims are more likely to end in exoneration than those with male victims.
  •  The investigation of the murders for which Mr. Manning was convicted remained open for more than 18 months. Capital convictions with long, difficult investigations are more likely to produce exonerations than those with shorter investigations.”

The Innocence Project concludes by:

“respectfully urg(ing) this Court to consider carefully the strong possibility that these constitutional violations—so common in other wrongful convictions— again caused the conviction of the wrong person, Willie Jerome Manning. That this possibility even exists should, at the very least, mean Mr. Manning’s conviction should be reversed so the case may be reinvestigated.”

We hope that the Court will give these briefs careful consideration.

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