22 years ago, the conviction of Willie Manning for the murder of two students caused anger in the local community, who believed racism had influenced the verdict. On November 19, 1994, the Oktibbeha County NAACP sponsored a protest march* to the Oktibbeha County Courthouse, where Willie’s supporters displayed a banner proclaiming, “Innocent until Proven Guilty”.
Representatives of civil rights and religious groups spoke at the Courthouse. Oktibbeha County NAACP Vice President, Douglas Conner, expressed the outrage felt by those who had attended Willie’s trial:
“It was a travesty of justice…. [The evidence was] circumstantial, shaky, confusing, unbelievable and poorly rehearsed. Circuit Judge Lee Howard said the prosecution’s job was to prove [Willie] was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I submit there was plenty of reasonable doubt… We don’t think the right person was convicted. We still think the killer is at large.”
Conner pointed out that Willie had been on a list of 22 black suspects that the police believed were capable of the crime. No white suspects were on that list.
Conner said that white skin had been found under Tiffany Miller’s fingernails (but it is not known what led Connor to make this statement, as there is no record of white skin in the evidence).
Clearly those who attended the trial felt there were huge doubts about the safety of Willie’s conviction. Twenty-two years later those doubts remain.