Willie Jerome Manning’s oral arguments for his 1993 case were heard in the Mississippi Supreme Court last week (at the time of writing it can still be viewed at the State of Mississippi Judiciary). The case relates to the murders of two elderly ladies, Emmoline Jimmerson and Alberta Jordan, at the Brookville Garden Apartment complex in Starkville, Mississippi, in January 1993. Willie did not become a suspect until nearly 14 months afterwards; no witnesses came forward to testify against him until then.
The oral hearing explored issues related to:
- the fully recanted testimony of Kevin Lucious, the only witness who had originally placed Willie at the victims’ apartment (Lucious and his then girlfriend, Likeesha Jones, testified at the post-conviction hearing that their original statements were made while they were being pressured and threatened by law enforcement.)
- undisclosed police canvass notes that appear to corroborate Mr Lucious’s recantation (During the post-conviction investigation these notes were found in the Starkville Police Department files. The police chief stated at the evidentiary hearing that he had copied the whole thing and given it to the District Attorney.)
- an undisclosed page of a crime lab report that noted the size of a bloody shoe print found next to one of the bodies, which was 3 sizes smaller than Willie’s shoe size (This significant page was found during post-conviction research in the crime lab files; it appears that inadvertently it was not passed on to law enforcement or the District Attorney before the trial, so was not available to the defense, and not seen by the jury.)
Willie’s attorney, David Voisin, argued that either the District Attorney would have known about the information that was not disclosed to the defense and so was suppressing it; or, in the alternative, that the trial defense attorneys were ineffective in obtaining that evidence.
Justice Randolph questioned what difference it makes whether it was the State or the defense counsel that was at fault; Mr Voisin responded,
“From my perspective it doesn’t really matter as long as Mr Manning gets a new trial, but in this case the Circuit Judge did find non-disclosure by the State for the canvass notes, and that materials were exculpatory; but he just did not find them material.”
“The bottom line is that Mr Manning did not get a fair trial because defense counsel did not have the means to impeach the most important witness that the State had, who was providing the most important testimony.”
Special Assistant Attorney General Melanie Thomas speculated that Lucious may have been resident at the Brookville Garden Apartments in reality even though he was not resident there on paper; however, Justice King recalled that at the trial the State went to great lengths to establish where Lucious was living at the time of the murders.
Justice Dickinson raised the possibility of improper conduct by the State:
“The two pieces of information that are missing are pieces of information that it seems at least arguable would have been favourable to Mr Manning’s defense. And they’re both missing from the files that were provided to defense counsel. Do you find that odd?”
Ms Thomas did not.
There is more about this case, and Willie’s other case, on the home page of this website.