Willie Manning’s lawyers have 30 days from 31 January 2014 to reach agreement with the prosecution about exactly which items should be tested for DNA and fingerprints. The items in question relate to Willie’s 1992 case involving two students, Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller.
There are many items from the crime scene that could be probative. No DNA testing has been performed on this evidence; in fact, much of the technical means for testing the samples was not available when the crime occurred in December 1992. Willie has argued that if all the items are submitted to a suitable lab, advanced screening techniques could be performed that may demonstrate which of them may yield DNA profiles, and what types of DNA testing would be required for each (STR DNA testing, Y-STR DNA testing, mitochondrial DNA testing or mini-STR DNA testing).
Items that Willie has listed as likely to yield DNA are: hair taken from various parts of the crime scene, a sexual assault kit, victims’ fingernail scrapings, victims’ clothing, parts of the car that were removed e.g. the steering wheel, items found in the car (a cup, bottle and hat), and fingerprint lifts (such lifts may yield a DNA profile).
Hair played a major part in Willie’s trial, when an FBI expert, Chester Blythe, testified that, based on examination using a microscope, hair from Miller’s car came from ‘a person of the black race’; the prosecutor then led the jury to equate this person with Willie, who is African-American. The same sample of hair gained prominence in May 2013, shortly before Willie’s scheduled execution, when the FBI admitted that their agent had ‘exceeded the limits of science’ in declaring the hair to be African-American in origin; so this critical testimony was now dismissed.
Surprisingly, hair found in the victims’ hands was apparently never examined, and neither was hair found in the sexual assault kit, despite these samples presumably offering a more secure link to the crime than hair vacuumed from the car.
Willie also requests that fingerprints from the victims’ car be compared with fingerprints in the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). When fingerprints were lifted from the crime scene they were compared with prints on file for the local area: there was no match with Willie, the victims, or any of the other numerous individuals who were investigated as suspects but not charged. The 74 million prints in the IAFIS are far more likely to yield a match.
We wish Willie well in his quest to secure effective and transparent testing, for which he has waited so long.