A Two-person Crime

A radio blog* recorded the day before Willie Jerome Manning’s scheduled execution in May, 2013, features Vincent Hill, a private investigator and former policeman. Hill re-examined the evidence in Willie’s 1992 case, and found many omissions and inconsistencies.

Here David Skato, a childhood friend of Willie’s family, tells Hill that a second murderer was implicated:

DS: There were statements that there is another person that was also involved, but they never looked for him, you know, they pretty much settled on Willie and it was like, “OK, the accomplice -we’ll just let him go.” And you don’t do that when it’s a murder case. You don’t just let somebody go.

VH: No, you definitely don’t do that when there’s a murder case, especially if you want to make sure you have all of the pieces of the puzzle, to say, “Yep, we’re 100% sure”…
I’m glad you brought that up, you know. I didn’t realize that they said that there was another person involved. Because before you said that I was thinking, “Well, how would he have forced two people into the car?” You can only point the gun at one person, from one side of the car. So, I’m assuming you would take out the biggest threat first, which would have been Jon, the male victim. So I’ve always said the type would be a two-person crime. And for two people to have been in the car and still not one thing point to Willie…

It was Earl Jordan**, a jailhouse snitch charged with other crimes on the Mississippi State University campus, who said he heard Willie confessing that both he and Jessie ‘One Wing’ Lawrence had committed the murders. Jordan’s statement helped to convict Willie even though it included the scarcely believable scenario that the two victims and two perpetrators were crammed into Miller’s two-seater car. It was later revealed that Jordan’s account must have been untrue, given that Jessie Lawrence had been in prison in Alabama at the time of the murders.

At an earlier stage in the police investigations, when two other suspects (Johnny Lowery {aka “Judy”} and Anthony Reed) were the lead suspects, Jordan had been equally happy to provide the police with an inculpatory statement about them.  

At Willie’s trial Jordan admitted that he was hoping for assistance with his charges. Just two months after reporting Willie’s “confession,” the state reduced charges against Jordan, indicting him only for looting, instead of as a habitual offender.

Jordan has admitted to Willie’s lawyer and an investigator that he lied about Willie’s ‘confession’ (but he has not signed an affidavit formally recanting his statement about Willie).

We do not know why Jordan’s testimony – about two perpetrators – was accepted despite its anomalies. Nor do we know how the state believes only one perpetrator could have controlled two victims in a two-seater car. 

There are still many unanswered questions about this case. Even if DNA and fingerprint testing proves inconclusive, more answers are needed. Willie deserves a new trial.

*See Dead Man Walking. The Willie Manning Case (Blog Talk Radio’s “The Other Side of Justice”). The interview does not start properly until 4 minutes into the recording. The passage quoted here starts at 27.15.
** See Willie’s petition for post-conviction relief, in the Circuit Court for Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, October 8, 2001 (pages 18 – 23 of the petition i.e. pages 37 – 42 of the entire archived document; also Exhibits 3 – 8 on pages 135 – 151 of the entire archived document).
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