Willie Manning’s name appears as number 153 on the list of death row exonerations published by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC); but because of another, unrelated capital conviction he is still behind bars on Mississippi’s death row. He remains “the man in the orange jumpsuit” who no one listens to, and no one believes.
It is good, then, that other death row exonerees are now free, and are now being believed. Their stories can promote the acceptance that those still on death row who claim innocence could also be telling the truth.
The name that precedes Willie’s on DPIC’s list is number 152, Anthony Ray Hinton, an African American man from Alabama, who was interviewed by The Guardian last month. The detective who arrested Hinton for robbery told him,
“I don’t care whether you did it or not. You will be convicted.”
When Hinton’s part in the robbery was disproved, he was charged with two unconnected murders instead. His appointed defense lawyer refused to believe he was innocent. It was only after spending 28 years on death row that the charges against Hinton were dismissed and he walked free.
The exoneration that immediately followed Willie’s is equally troubling. Number 154 on DPIC’s list is yet another African American man, Alfred Dewayne Brown, from Texas. Writing last month also, Brown’s post-conviction lawyer describes how Brown’s girlfriend was intimidated by police into withdrawing her statement, which had supported Brown’s alibi. And potentially exculpatory records were found 3 years ago in the home garage of a Houston police detective who worked on the case.
Amazingly, both Hinton and Brown say they have no hatred for those whose actions condemned them. And Hinton has a message for anyone on death row who is innocent:
“Never give up hope.”
We have passed this message to Willie. We trust it will help him stay strong. And we hope it will not be long before he, too, is free to tell his story.