Thirty Years On

Today, December 11, 2022, marks 30 years since the savage murders of two Mississippi State University students in Starkville, Mississippi. Willie Manning remembers feeling shocked and saddened when he found out about those murders from the television news later that day.

As time went on, Willie became aware that two suspects had been targeted, and then dropped by the police. When the police turned their attention to him, Willie assumed they would quickly lose interest in him, too, once they realized he had nothing to do with the murders. After all, he knew that no physical evidence linked him to the crime, and witnesses could confirm that he was at the 2500 Club on the other side of town when the students were seen leaving the fraternity house for the last time.

But despite the absence of evidence, Willie Manning was dismayed to find himself being convicted and sentenced to death for each murder. In 2014, filmmaker Joe Berlinger commented on this discrepancy: “Trials are often not about seeking the truth, but about who presents the best narrative.”

With the DNA testing phase now concluded for Willie, it is time to reflect again on the crime that took two young lives 30 years ago. Were any clues overlooked at that time? Were any more potential witnesses omitted from police questioning? Is there anything else that could add to Willie’s understanding of what happened to Tiffany Miller and Jon Steckler that night? if you do have information. please contact the Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel, Mississippi.

This week will be very challenging for everyone on Mississippi’s death row: an execution is planned for Wednesday. We hope that Willie can focus on the support that he has from his attorneys, family and friends. And we wish him a peaceful holiday season.

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