Death penalty supporters disappointed by last month’s US Supreme Court ruling are finding hope for the future in the dissents to the ruling, supported by four of the nine justices. Justice Breyer’s dissent is particularly comprehensive:
“I would ask for full briefing on … whether the death penalty violates the Constitution.”
Hi arguments include: the possibility of executing innocent people, the torture of keeping death row inmates locked up in isolation for many years while appeals are heard, and the possibility of people coming close to execution before the execution is stayed. Willie Manning is mentioned in the latter context (see P.71 of the dissent).
Justice Breyer states,
“Willie Manning was four hours from his scheduled execution before the Mississippi Supreme Court stayed the execution. Two years later, Manning was exonerated after the evidence against him, including flawed testimony from an FBI hair examiner, was severely undermined.”
Justice Breyer fails to grasp Willie’s exceptional situation in having been convicted of two unrelated cases of double murder, and thus makes the common mistake of condensing the two cases into one. Willie has been exonerated in one of the cases (Jimmerson-Jordan), but not yet in the case for which FBI hair testimony was flawed (Steckler-Miller).
If even a sympathetic US Supreme Court Justice has failed to note the significance of Willie having had death sentences in two unrelated cases, both marked by extremely shaky evidence, it is a fair assumption that there are as yet many more people who know Willie’s name but share the judge’s ignorance about the extent of the injustice involved. We trust that DNA testing and fingerprint comparison will soon reveal the truth about the Steckler-Miller case, and expose the magnitude of the wrong that Willie has suffered.