Two Unqualifed Attorneys

In Willie Manning’s 1992 case, the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court had great difficulty performing its duty to appoint a post-conviction attorney who was qualified for capital cases. The court ignored Willie’s own choice of attorney, who was suitably qualified. Instead it appointed first one, and then, incredibly, a second attorney who lacked the requisite qualifications.

As a result of the delays, Willie missed a crucial filing deadline; he was unfairly blamed for this error.* Appallingly, this led to an execution date being scheduled for him.

It is hard to avoid Tucker Carrington’s conclusion:
“In my mind, the state had written Willie off. ‘Who gives a f*** about this guy?”

A report published last month, The Right to Counsel in Mississippi, reveals that there are many state wide problems in indigent defense lawyering . It notes that “Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the nation” … “against a backdrop of higher crime than that seen nationally.” The authors find that counties and municipalities thus struggle to fund even the minimum constitutional requirements for effective indigent defense.

The report concludes by recommending legislation to help the state improve defense services for those of limited means.

We hope that the report’s recommendations are implemented. Willie’s suffering should not be repeated.

* Willie Jerome Manning Petitioner-Appellant & Cross-Appellee v. Christopher Epps, Commisioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections, and Jim Hood, Attorney General, Respondents-Appellees & Cross-Appellants. 10-70008. Response to Cross-Appeal and Reply Brief of Petitioner-Appellant filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Filed December 15, 2010. Pages 6 – 11 (pages 15 – 20 of pdf).


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