Hope in the Midst of Despair

Imagine being on death row for 20 years, convicted of crimes of which you are innocent. Your juries believed the prosecutors, and during the appeals process your innocence becomes irrelevant (appeals focus only on whether correct procedures have been followed).

Throughout this nightmare you must stay in a tiny cell for 23 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout each long year.

Throw into this mix the heat of a Mississippi summer, even more unbearable in the confines of a prison not designed for comfort. Then water is cut off. You wait several days before bottled water is provided between meals. The electricity is cut off and your fan no longer works. The hall fans also stop working. The heat index rises to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius).

Such was the lot of Willie Manning between Saturday July 18 and Thursday July 23 2015. The situation is reportedly normal now, but this episode must have reinforced the feeling that nobody cares.

Fortunately, on the same day that normality was restored to the death row cells in Mississippi State Penitentiary, the Oktibbeha County Court issued an order relating to Willie’s case. Although not greatly significant, this provides the reassurance that DNA testing is proceeding as it should.

The order requires the Mississippi Crime Lab to provide samples of blood from the victims in Willie’s case. The samples are to be sent to Cellmark Forensics,

“so that the victims’ DNA profiles can be established and compared to any profiles obtained from the submitted evidence sources.”

In other words, things are moving. There is hope. And any little fragments of hope are enormously important when you are innocent on death row.

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