Three years ago, on May 7 2013, Willie Manning narrowly avoided execution. Tucker Carrington, founding director of the Mississippi Innocence Project and law professor at the University of Mississippi, has expressed what many people feel about Mississippi’s attitude towards Willie:
“In my mind, the state had written Willie off. ‘Who gives a f*** about this guy? He’s already condemned. We know he’s the type of person who’s capable of doing this. It’s him.’”
Ex-policeman, Vincent Hill, agrees:
“I think Mississippi is one of those status states where you either have it or you don’t, and if you don’t, we don’t care about you. So here you have Willie, from the projects of Mississippi, and then you have these two Mississippi State University students, who, you know, were up and coming, and… ‘This type of project guy has done it, and we need to close it, we need to close it fast, and this guy doesn’t matter anyway.’”*
Last week the news from a different death penalty case helped to confirm Mississippi’s disregard for “low status” people. We learned that Eddie Lee Howard, convicted largely on the basis of bite mark evidence (since discredited) can now be “excluded as contributing male DNA to the stabbings from the butcher knife blade” found at the murder scene in his case. Howard is black, and has a history of mental illness. The evidence against him was always thin, but it seems that Howard, like Willie, was so insignificant that the state was unconcerned.
We trust that Eddie Lee Howard will find justice, with the support of the Innocence Project. And we trust that Willie, too, will soon be able to convince a court of his innocence. It is time for his ordeal to end.