Today it is exactly two years – 730 long days – since a mandate from the Mississippi Supreme Court allowed Willie Manning to pursue his request for DNA testing and fingerprint comparison. For Willie the two years must have seemed interminable.
At long last, however, there are signs that the DNA testing may soon be complete. On July 23 there was authorization by the court for blood samples from the two victims to be sent to the Cellmark forensic lab where items from the crime scene are being analyzed. This was followed only 18 days later (on August 10) by further authorization, this time for a tissue sample from Willie to be sent to the lab,
“so that Mr. Manning’s DNA profile can be established and compared to any profiles obtained from the submitted evidence sources”.
A Buccal DNA Collector, used to collect cells from inside an individual’s cheek, has been delivered. Medical personnel of the Mississippi Department of Corrections at Parchman are to collect the sample, witnessed by Willie’s lawyer, and, if wished, by counsel for the State.
After over twenty years on death row, Willie must be struggling to comprehend that this is all real. There have been so many moments of hope followed by despair; so many long years of trauma, despondency and grief; such a deep sense of abandonment and separation from the world. After all this it must feel as if the prospect of exoneration will remain a perpetual illusion.
Our thoughts are with Willie as he undergoes the simple DNA collection process, attempting to take in the enormity of what is happening. And we trust that the analysis and comparison process will be quick, so that Willie will finally have the certainty that he needs and deserves.