The Puzzle of the Hair Fragments

At Willie Manning’s trial, an FBI hair expert testified about hair fragments vacuumed from Tiffany Miller’s car. The expert stated that the hair was African American (an assertion that the FBI and DOJ discredited in 2013).

With no physical evidence linking Willie to the crime, the flawed hair testimony assumed great significance at his trial. As Willie’s Reply to State’s Opposition* explained in May 2013,
“The State clearly relied on the forensic hair analyst’s testimony to link Willie Manning to the crime scene and forensic testimony is known to have an impact on jurors.”

Judge Lee Howard was the trial judge who accepted the prosecution’s hair testimony into the trial.

The same judge has recently been asked to consider the hair fragments again, following Willie’s request that they be transferred from Bode Technology to another facility, MitoTyping Technologies, for further DNA analysis. This time Judge Howard has decided that the hair samples are not relevant to Willie’s case. He states that they “could have come from any source from the time the car was manufactured until the time the samples were obtained”.

We are thus left with a puzzle. Why did testimony about this hair – now defined by the trial judge as “irrelevant to the issue of guilt” – appear in the trial? What made the hair relevant to the case in 1994, but irrelevant in 2020?

Willie has many issues to raise about his case; the puzzle of the hair fragments is but one of many elements that prompt questions and cause concern. Willie’s quest for answers has been long and grueling. We trust that he is edging ever closer to receiving justice.

* Willie Manning v. State of Mississippi, Reply to State’s Opposition, 2013-DR-00491-SCT, Supreme Court of Mississippi. May 6, 2013. Page 4.

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