Hope in Sherwood Brown’s New Trial

Willie Manning must be happy that his fellow death row inmate and African American, Sherwood Brown, has been granted a new trial by the Mississippi Supreme Court. Like Willie, Brown had been pursuing DNA testing; like Willie, he was granted DNA testing only at a late stage in his appeals.

It was DNA testing that was responsible for the vacation of Brown’s conviction. Blood on Brown’s shoe revealed male DNA, whereas all of the victims were female. DNA testing also invalidated the testimony of Dr Michael West, a forensic “expert” who had claimed there was a match between the teeth of one of the victims and a scratch on Brown’s wrist. (West’s bite mark testimony has been rejected in other cases, including that of death row exoneree, Kennedy Brewer; yet the Mississippi Supreme Court continues to avoid condemning West’s work as a whole.)

Tucker Carrington, a lawyer for the Mississippi Innocence Project, is hopeful that charges in Brown’s case will be dismissed:
“I don’t know how they can retry him on this.”

DNA testing is not always straightforward; we do not yet know how much Willie’s DNA and fingerprint testing will establish. But the decision in Brown’s case must have given Willie hope, and that will help him to survive his bleak days on death row.

We trust that Willie, too, will soon be awaiting a new trial.

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