Right at the end of 2015, Willie Manning’s name again appeared in a national newspaper: the New York Times reminded its readers about his exoneration earlier in the year. The New York Times was wrong to describe the victims in the case as two white women (they were two black women); this error was copied from a report by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), which has since corrected its paragraph about Willie.
The DPIC report makes it plain that if Mississippi had executed Willie for his 1992 case in May 2013, as it so nearly did, he would have been unable to prove his innocence in the 1993 case:
“On April 21, Mississippi prosecutors dropped all charges against Willie Manning for the murder of two black women in an apartment complex. The Mississippi Supreme court had ruled he was entitled to a new trial because prosecutors had failed to disclose key exculpatory evidence to the defense. Manning’s innocence of the apartment murders almost did not come to light, as he came within hours of being executed for another double homicide that the evidence now suggests he also did not commit. He was granted a stay only after the FBI sent separate letters to the court disclosing flaws in both its ballistics and hair comparison testimony against Manning.”
The five other USA death penalty exonerees from 2015 are also listed in the DPIC report, with the causes of their exoneration described. All the reasons would be familiar to Willie from his own cases (“egregious” police and prosecutorial misconduct, flawed ballistics testimony, failures by the trial lawyer together with a “full spectrum of prosecutorial misconduct” and a conviction based on circumstantial evidence only).
It is good that as 2015 closed Willie remained in the public eye. 2015 was the year when Willie was exonerated in his 1993 case. We sincerely hope that 2016 will bring public realization that Willie Manning was wrongfully sentenced to death not once, but twice.