Less fortunate than ourselves

It is ten years since Clive Stafford Smith alerted the world to Willie Manning’s appalling plight. Stafford Smith’s article began:
“It is a platitude to suggest that as the Christmas season approaches we should consider those less fortunate than ourselves, but if we did Willie would certainly qualify.”

Since then, Willie’s cases have progressed well: his second case has concluded with his exoneration; and for his first case he has won the right to have DNA and fingerprint testing.

On the other hand, Willie now knows the trauma of having come very close to execution. And he knows that a court decision can dash hopes: it was an unexpected court decision that dashed his hopes of imminent release ten years ago.

For 23 hours each day Willie is alone in his cell. The shouts and screams of mentally ill inmates echo round the corridors, at any time of the night and day, making it hard to concentrate or to sleep. Food portions are often inadequate. And Willie has been on death row for 22 years, despite his claims of innocence and the flimsiest of evidence against him.

Clive Stafford Smith’s words ring true now, as then. We should remember Willie at this time of the year.

We wish Willie a peaceful holiday season.

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