The Circuit Court Abused its Discretion

Today, Saturday, June 12 is Willie Manning’s 53rd birthday: we wish him a happy birthday. We trust that recent developments in his case help him to spend the day peacefully: his arguments for further DNA testing are strong.

In April, Willie filed a brief for the Mississippi Supreme Court, appealing the decision of the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court to deny additional forensic testing of seven hair fragments vacuumed from Tiffany Miller’s car.*

The Bode Technology lab, where the previous tests were conducted, recommended transferring the fragments to the MitoTyping Technologies lab for additional testing, because the latter has much greater success than Bode at extracting mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from old, degraded samples. Willie explains that the transfer of the fragments to MitoTyping thus meets the legal requirement for “a reasonable likelihood of more probative results” [Miss Code Ann § 99-39-5 (1) (f)].

Willie also highlights the Circuit Court’s statement, “The vacuum sweeping could have come from any source from the time the car was manufactured until the time the samples were obtained”, and testing it is “irrelevant to the issue of guilt”. As Willie notes:
“If the Circuit Court is correct in opining that the hairs are irrelevant, then it was error to admit them and the expert’s testimony [into the trial], in which case there is an additional reason to grant Manning a new trial”.

As the hairs were admitted into Willie’s trial and were used against him, further mtDNA testing should be granted. As Willie concludes,
“[T]he Circuit Court clearly erred and abused its discretion in refusing to allow the additional testing of seven hairs by MitoTyping Technologies”.

We trust the Mississippi Supreme Court will agree. We wish Willie the strength and patience to await its decision.

*The State of Mississippi Judiciary website has been undergoing planned scheduled maintenance for several months, so Willie’s filing is not yet visible there. We will provide a link to it when this becomes available.

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