Willie Jerome Manning was permitted to seek DNA and fingerprint testing over two years ago, but still there is no news of the final results. Long waits are normal on death row, but this one must be particularly challenging: Willie now knows only too well both the bitterness of hopes dashed, and the anguish of coming close to execution.
He should, however, draw strength from his strong international profile. His cases are being watched across the globe; for instance, the dismissal of his 1993 case has been noted in the Amnesty UK magazine as being of international significance.
Willie should also take heart from some recent important developments regarding the death penalty:
- President Obama has said the way the death penalty is implemented is “deeply troubling”.
- The pope has condemned the death penalty during a speech in the US Congress; four US Supreme Court justices, including the critical ‘swing voter’, Justice Kennedy, were in Congress to hear his speech.
- Justice Scalia, despite his own strong personal support for the death penalty, has said “It wouldn’t surprise me at all” if the High Court struck down capital punishment as “unconstitutional.”
- The National Association of Evangelicals has voted to “soften its longstanding position supporting capital punishment”. It now accepts the strand of belief that endorses “the sacredness of all life, including the lives of those who perpetrate serious crimes and yet have the potential for repentance and reformation.”
- Scandals regarding the administration of the death penalty (botched executions, cases of likely innocence, such as Richard Glossip’s, government secrecy/shady deals/ incompetency involving lethal injection drugs) have resulted in many media articles advocating the end of the death penalty.
Willie claims he was wrongfully convicted in two separate murder cases. If he can prove this, his lamentable predicament will undoubtedly add to the case for abolishing the death penalty. Let us hope this happens soon.