As so many times before, Willie Jerome Manning is waiting. He is waiting to find out whether the State approves the items that he wants to have tested for DNA and fingerprints, to provide evidence for his case of the two students. He is also waiting for the State’s response to his appeal in his case of the two elderly ladies, in which he provided additional evidence that the State presented false evidence, and failed to disclose evidence that was favorable to him.
During this period of waiting it is perhaps good that he has had the distraction of moving to a different cell while his window was being replaced during building work.
Willie’s experience of waiting must now be colored by his experience in 2006, when he was waiting for a Mississippi Supreme Court’s ruling. In 2004 the Court had overturned both his convictions, following a review of both the verdicts because of anomalies in the evidence.
“The prosecution then asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to reconsider its decision. This is usually a formality, but it can take months. As he waited, Willie tried to piece his life back together. He wrote constantly to his now 15-year-old daughter. He sent her the little money he had saved, so she could take her friends skating for her birthday. By the time he got out of prison, he would be 40, but he would still have a future.
“Then, on 9 March 2006, Willie received a large envelope in the mail from the Supreme Court. “I read just the first page. I didn’t have to go further,” he said. “I bent down like I had been kicked in the stomach.” The letter said: “The original opinion is withdrawn and this opinion is substituted therefore . . . the petition for post-conviction relief is denied.
“A judge sits on his leather chair in his office, ruminating on an opinion. Many miles away, a prisoner waits to hear the verdict on his life. To lose is despair; but nothing compares to the cruelty of victory torn away.”
Though Willie’s cases seem to be progressing well at the moment, he knows from bitter experience that this could change in an instant. It is, as always, an anxious wait.