The Validation of Lies*

At Willie Manning’s Steckler-Miller trial, Earl Jordan was the only witness who testified that Willie had confessed to committing the murders. But there were huge problems with Jordan’s credibility. Willie’s “confession”, as recounted by Jordan, involved the highly improbable scenario that four grown people had been crammed into a two-person car. † Moreover, before Willie became a police suspect, Jordan had willingly implicated the two men who were then prime suspects, Johnny Lowery and Anthony Reed. Jordan did not describe Willie’s “confession” until just a week before Willie’s trial. And Jordan’s motivation was also known: he was hoping for assistance with charges brought against him for looting.

Trying to recover his witness’s integrity, the prosecutor established that Jordan had volunteered to take a polygraph (lie detector) test to confirm the validity of his testimony against Willie; the defense was barred from cross-examining Jordan about this. By deliberately raising Jordan’s willingness to subject himself to a polygraph, the prosecutor clearly hoped to authenticate his testimony. (The Mississippi Supreme Court later recognized the prejudice that such a calculated tactic could produce against the accused: in a later case the court ruled against it.)

Moreover, the jury did not hear that Jordan had previously taken a polygraph test to validate his earlier statement against Reed, and had “cleared the test very well.” If the jurors had heard this they may have concluded that Jordan told lies so easily that polygraphs did not actually prove anything.

The prosecutor’s extremely questionable intervention may well have prevented the jury from dismissing Jordan’s dubious testimony outright.

Regrettably, Willie’s trail was riddled with similar examples of unfairness. It is high time for his claim of innocence to be recognized. It is high time for him to be granted a new trial.

*Information for this post is taken from Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi. 2001-0144-CV. Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, filed in the Circuit Court for Oktibbeha County State of Mississippi. October 8, 2001. State of Mississippi Judiciary. Pages 18 – 28 (pages 26 – 36 of pdf).Web. June 29, 2015.
†It later emerged that one of those four, Jessie Lawrence (the man named by Jordan as Willie’s accomplice), was in reality in prison in Alabama at the time of the murders.
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