Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Richard Burdine, who died last month, represented Willie Manning at the penalty phase of his trial. Burdine was an African American lawyer who deserves credit for frequently accepting indigent defendants as clients. He was publicly commended by the Mississippi legislature in 2014.[i]

In Willie’s case, however, Burdine seemed to have misunderstood what his responsibilities entailed:
“Burdine somehow had the impression that while he was supposed to present the witnesses for the penalty phase, he was not supposed to conduct the actual investigation.”[ii]
As a result, he was unable to articulate to the jury a single credible reason why Willie’s life should be spared.[iii]

Burdine also “presented very brief and sketchy testimony from only two witnesses”,[iv] when many potentially excellent witnesses were available who were familiar with Willie’s background.[v]

The lawyer with responsibility for defending Willie at the earlier culpability phase of his trial knew they must prepare a strong argument for mitigation in case there was a guilty verdict:
“I became convinced – and remain convinced – that Mr. Manning is innocent. Nevertheless, I was not naive enough to believe that we should rest solely on my efforts for the first part of the trial.”[vi]

In the event, the prosecution used pressurized and incentivized witnesses to convince the jury that Willie was guilty. The case moved inexorably to the penalty phase, where Burdine’s lack of preparation became only too apparent. Willie was sentenced to death.

Clearly at the penalty phase of Willie’s trial his counsel’s assistance was ineffective. Clearly Willie should be allowed to present this claim to a court.

We trust he can do this soon.

[i] From Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington, The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist, published March 2018.
[ii] Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, No. 2001-0144-CV, Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, filed in the Circuit Court for Oktibbeha County. Filed October 8, 2001. Page 87 (page 95 of pdf). State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.
[iii] Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, No. 2001-0144-CV, Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, filed in the Circuit Court for Oktibbeha County. Filed October 8, 2001. Page 95 (page 103 of pdf). State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.
[iv] Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, No. 2001-0144-CV, Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, filed in the Circuit Court for Oktibbeha County. Filed October 8, 2001. Page 87 (page 95 of pdf). State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.
[v] Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, No. 2001-0144-CV, Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, filed in the Circuit Court for Oktibbeha County. Filed October 8, 2001. Pages 85 – 86 (pages 93 – 94 of pdf). State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.
[vi] Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, No. 2001-0144-CV, Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, filed in the Circuit Court for Oktibbeha County. Filed October 8, 2001. 86 (page 94 of pdf). State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.

 

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