Home Page Referenced

The home page of this website has been updated to include references.

The serious issues that Willie Manning wishes to raise in the Steckler-Miller case (in a section entitled Issues with this Case) are now referenced. You can click on the numbers to jump to details of the court docket(s) from which the information is taken. To jump back to the main part of the section, click on the number at the beginning of the docket information.

Some of these dockets are available for viewing on the new State of Mississippi Judiciary website; others are stored on the Justice for Willie Manning website. The references on the Justice for Willie Manning home page provide links to most of the dockets.

We trust this will make it easier for you to verify the information given on this website.

Posted in African American, America, capital punishmant, criminal justice, death penalty, Fly Manning, miscarriages of justice, Mississippi, USA, Willie Jerome Manning, Willie Manning, wrongful convictions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy 49th Birthday!

Today is Willie Manning’s 49th birthday. He has spent 22½ years on death row.

When Willie was first questioned by law enforcement about the murder of two students he remained upbeat, confident that his innocence would be recognized and that he would be released. He had, after all, passed a lie detector test* and had been with friends in a busy club on the night of the murders.** And he knew the police had already questioned and released other suspects. As Willie told his girlfriend, Paula Hathorn,

“[A]ll this is game. All it is interrogation. See, he think he on the right track but like I told him, he gonna soon find out he barking up the wrong tree…*** They just, it’s just interrogation game and they went to Judy, they went to Eric, they went to Steve, and now they fucking with me. You know that’s all it’s about…” ****

However, the state was even then putting pressure on Hathorn to cooperate in building a case against Willie, by threatening to charge her as an accessory after the fact to murder, for which she could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison.†

This was but a prelude to the whole range of questionable methods and unsound evidence which the state used in order to secure not one, but two convictions against Willie. And four years ago Willie suffered the trauma of being very close to execution.

Despite all the challenges that Willie has had to face, he describes himself as lucky, because he has the support of family and friends, and because, unlike many in the world, he is not facing famine and conflict. Willie is an inspiring human being.

We wish Willie a very happy birthday.

*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 384 – 385 of PDF. State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.  
 **Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, Motion for Leave to File Successive Petition for Post-Conviction Relief including DNA Testing and other Forensic Analysis, filed March 22, 2013. Pages 24 – 26 

*** 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 385 of PDF. State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.

****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 387 of PDF. State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015. 
†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 393 of PDF. State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.
Posted in African Americans, capital punishmant, criminal justice, death penalty, Death Row, Fly Manning, law enforcement, Mississippi, police misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Epps’ Last Chapter

Christopher Epps was the Mississippi Corrections Commissioner for 12 of the 22 years that Willie Manning has spent on the state’s death row. Now Epps is facing his own lengthy incarceration – nearly 20 years of it – for taking $1.4 million in bribes. Epps was sentenced by a federal judge last week to 19½ years in prison and a fine of $100,000. He has also forfeited more than $1.7 million in assets. His long prison sentence reflects the extent of the conspiracy web in which he was entangled.

From humble beginnings in the Mississippi Delta, Epps followed his parents into teaching while also working a shift as a guard at Mississippi State Penitentiary, Parchman. He soon dropped teaching, but his college degree helped him into an administrative position as Parchman’s deputy superintendent. And in 2002 he secured the top job – Corrections Commissioner for the state.

Epps was a reforming commissioner, and was popular. As Albert Samaha puts it:
“Prisoner’s rights advocates liked him. Correctional officers liked him. Defense lawyers liked him. Prosecutors liked him. Reporters liked him. Politicians liked him. There might not have been a more universally respected and admired public official in all of Mississippi than Chris Epps.”

But Epps’ downfall was greed. He began awarding prison contracts to those who made personal payments to him. The investigation into Epps has uncovered many that he worked with, including former state representatives, a doctor with contracts to treat prison inmates, the owner of a drug testing company, and a prison consultant.

Judge Wingate did not mince his words when sentencing Epps:
“This is the largest graft operation in the state of Mississippi, definitely the largest I have seen. Mr. Epps… was able to have expensive homes and a vacation home; he was able to afford luxury cars and have fat bank accounts.
Mississippi is still in shock. It was an act of betrayal. He has bruised the image of Mississippi and given joy to many of the inmates he has overseen who can now say the head of the state prison system was just as corrupt as any of them.”

As State Senator Willie Simmons said of Epps:
“If you wrote a book on Chris Epps, the first 10 chapters of the book were chapters of greatness and accomplishments, and things he was able to do in a system that is very difficult to manage. And then the last chapter to be written is the one we see being written today.”

Posted in Christopher Epps, corruption, Mississippi, Mississippi Corrections Commissioner, Mississippi State Penitentiary, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The USA: A Shameful Record

The USA has a poor reputation when it comes to executions. A report* by Amnesty International found the following:
-Most UN member states were execution-free last year;** but the USA continued to execute.
-The USA was the only one of the 35 member states of the Organization of American States that performed an execution in 2016.***
-Japan and the USA were the only countries in the G8 to perform executions last year.****
-The USA is one of the few countries to execute people with intellectual disabilities.†

-For the first time since 2006, the USA did not feature among the top five global executioners.‡ Nevertheless, it remains seventh§ in the top ten globally for executions, in a list of countries where violent intimidation is widespread:
China
Iran
Saudi Arabia
Iraq
Pakistan
Egypt
USA
Somalia
Bangladesh
Afghanistan

To be sure, there were fewer US executions in 2016 than in 2015, but that fall was partly linked to the procurement of lethal injection chemicals and related legal challenges.‖ Recent US Supreme Court rulings in cases from Arkansas may make it easier for execution fanatics to have their way (see, for instance, the case of Ledell Lee, a mentally disabled  African American man who was refused DNA testing despite huge doubts about the safety of his conviction).

There is, however, some hope for the future: 2016 brought a 38% decrease in death sentences imposed in the USA.¶ Let us hope that this reflects a real change of heart among the American people.  Willie Manning’s case is but one example of the injustice inherent in the US death penalty. This barbaric practice must be condemned to the past.

“Revenge must never be confused with justice, and the death penalty only serves to compound injustice.”
Zeid Ra-ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 9 August 2016
#

*Amnesty International Global Report: Death Sentences and Executions 2016 
**See above report, page 8 (page 10 of PDF).
*** See above report, page 8 (page 10 of PDF).
****See above report, page 8 (page 10 of PDF).
†See above report, page 7 (page 9 of PDF).
‡See above report, page 11 (page 13 of PDF).
§See above report, page 28 of PDF.
‖See above report, page 12 (page 14 of PDF).
#See above report, page 3 (page 5 of PDF).
Posted in Amnesty International, capital punishmant, criminal justice, death penalty, executions, Fly Manning, Injustice, Mississippi, revenge, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Abominations Masked by Secrecy

Willie Jerome Manning first came to the world’s attention because of an article by Clive Stafford Smith, who continues to speak out against the death penalty. Stafford Smith recently described the US death penalty as a dying dinosaur – destined for extinction, but still capable of inflicting enormous damage. Pointing out that support for capital punishment is waning, Stafford Smith wrote:

“A dwindling number of politicians – either deceptively populist or determinedly delusional – continue to pretend that executing a few people each year will somehow right the wrongs that permeate US society.”

This month the Mississippi Supreme Court supported such populist or deluded politicians in Mississippi, by ruling that the state need not respond to a public records request about how executions are carried out. As Justice King noted in his dissent,* the court had been dilatory in responding to the public records request; by the time the court eventually ruled, the law had already been changed to ensure execution secrecy.

Amid a shortage of some lethal injection drugs, the main, unstated aim of the new law is probably to encourage a compounding pharmacy to make and sell a drug to the state. This angers pharmaceutical companies, which prohibit their products from being used for executions.

In Arkansas, another state where secrecy surrounds executions, legal action by pharmaceutical companies has so far failed to curb the execution spree that the state has embarked on in order to beat the expiry date of its lethal injection drugs.

The Arkansas executions highlight many abominations in the death penalty system: a “parade of the most vulnerable and broken people”,** terrible trial defense lawyering, likely innocencebotched executions. Abominations which, as Stafford Smith explains, serve no good purpose:
“There is no link between American executions and American crime: 31 states keep 
the death penalty on their books, but their crime rate tends to be higher than 
in the 19 states that have abolished the noose. Crime has far more to do with 
the 300 million guns that swamp America, the boatloads of cocaine, and the 43.1 
million Americans in poverty, than the execution of a handful of those we are 
told to hate.”

Arkansas has rightly drawn a barrage of criticism for its callous and pointless determination to kill. Mississippi can expect the same condemnation if it pursues its gruesome goals: the American public is turning against the death penalty.  The death penalty, like dinosaurs, should be extinct.

*Mississippi Department of Corrections v. The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, 2015-CA-00431-SCT. Supreme Court of Mississippi April 13, 2017.   P. 25 
** Rob Smith, director of the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard Law School, said the justices must notice “this parade of the most vulnerable and broken people who come before the court with (original) lawyering that would embarrass judges in traffic court.”
Posted in Arkansas, capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, execution drugs, executions, Fly Manning, Injustice, innocence, lethal injection drugs, Mississippi, pharmaceutical companies, secrecy, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Testimony Procured Unfairly

Oktibbeha County Sheriff Dolph Bryan investigated both Willie Manning’s cases: in both cases he enlisted and managed state witnesses by unfair means.

1993 Jimmerson-Jordan case
Bryan, together with Starkville Police Captain David Lindley, asked Kevin Lucious to sign a false prepared statement saying that he had seen Willie entering the victims’ apartment. Lucious was told he would not be charged with capital murder for a case in Missouri if he cooperated. *

Bryan, with District Attorney Forrest Allgood, also intimidated Lucious’s then girlfriend, Likeesha Harris, by threatening to charge her and Lucious with the murders of Alberta Jordan and Emmoline Jimmerson if they did not cooperate. Believing she would otherwise be jailed and lose her child, Harris became a witness against Willie at his trial.

Both Lucious and Harris eventually recanted. On April 20, 2015, charges against Willie in this case were dropped.

1992 Steckler-Miller case
Bryan targeted Paula Hathorn, Willie’s then girlfriend (whom, at Willie’s trial, he admitted** to be untrustworthy). From the outset he promised her a reward in return for helping him; he also told her that she should not worry about going to jail for the many fraudulent check charges that she had accumulated (estimated by her attorney to correspond to 8 – 10 years’ jail time plus some years’ probation). *** Bryan backed up these offers with intimidation, telling her she could be tried for accessory after the fact (of the two students’ murders), for which she might receive a ten-year prison sentence.****

By these methods Bryan persuaded Hathorn to help identify stolen items, to talk many times to Willie on the phone with the (unsuccessful) aim of extracting a confession, and to testify at Willie’s trial.

Bryan fulfilled his promises to Hathorn: she was given a huge reward and was scarcely punished for her bad check charges. The jury was unaware of the extent of these favors.†

In both cases a combination of favors and intimidation were used to procure testimony. The implications of this worrying pattern constitute but one of the disturbing features of Willie’s remaining case.

We trust it is not long before Willie is granted a new trial.

* See State of Mississippi v. Willie Jerome Manning, Order of Nolle Prosequi, in the Circuit Court of Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, April 20, 2015, Print
** See Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, Motion for Leave to File Successive Petition for Post-Conviction Relief including DNA Testing and other Forensic Analysis, filed March 22, 2013. Page 10
***State of Mississippi, County of Lowndes, Affidavit of Paula Renee Hathorn, Exhibit 29 in Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, filed in the Circuit Court for Oktibbeha County. Filed October 8, 2001. Pages 333 to 335 of PDF. State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.
**** 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 48 (page 56 of PDF). State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.
†Information about Hathorn is taken from 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 42 – 52, and pages 63 – 64 (pages 50 – 60 and pages 71 – 72  of PDF). State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.

 

Posted in capital punishmant, death penalty, Fly Manning, Injustice, USA, Willie Manning, witness coercion | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Delays in DNA Testing

As long ago as August 2016, it seems that Willie Manning and the State were “attempting to reach an agreement on how to proceed with developing a DNA profile from hairs that were used at Mr. Manning’s trial.”

A new Mississippi Supreme Court letter suggests that agreement has been difficult to reach:
“The previous status update had advised that the type of DNA testing had been worked out, but the specific hairs to be analyzed had not been agreed upon.”

The hair testimony given by an FBI agent at Willie’s trial was afforded great significance by the prosecution. It became important again when the FBI admitted that the testimony had been flawed.

Perhaps it is the very significance of the hair evidence that now makes agreement more difficult.

We trust that Willie remains strong, despite the delays. We trust he will not have to wait long for good news.

Posted in capital punishmant, criminal justice, death penalty, DNA testing, Fly Manning, forensic testimony, hair testimony, Mississippi, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Significance of Absent Witnesses

In the early hours of the December 11, 1992, two Mississippi State University students were murdered. Willie Manning said he was at the 2500 Club that night. As the prosecutor himself pointed out, if Willie was at that club, he “could not possibly have committed this crime. . . .”

Clearly it was of critical importance to Willie’s defense that witnesses should corroborate Willie’s alibi at his trial. Indeed, several people testified that they had seen Willie at the club: Gene Rice, King Hall, Landon Clayborne, Mario Hall and Keith Higgins all said they had seen Willie there.

The state agreed that Willie was at the 2500 Club early in the evening, but surmised that he left the club early and then made his way to the crime scene. Even this hypothesis is hard to reconcile with the facts;* but if Willie had produced credible witnesses to testify that he was at the club later, he would have dealt the state’s theory a powerful blow.

Such witnesses existed, but Willie’s defense failed to locate them. So it was only during post-conviction investigations that Sherron Armstead Mitchell, Doug Miller and Troylin Jones signed affidavits to confirm that they saw Willie at the 2500 Club late on the night of the murders. Troylin Jones saw him at the club at midnight or a little later; Doug Miller last saw him there after midnight, at around 12.15 or 12.20; and Sherron Armstead Mitchell remembered that Willie was still at the club when she left it at almost 1.00 a.m. Mitchell had good reason to remember the time, as she knew her husband would be mad at her for being out so late.

It was between approximately 12:50 and 1:00 a.m. when the two murdered students were last seen, leaving a fraternity house together. The prosecution claimed that when they left, they interrupted Willie stealing items from a car parked outside this house. At the very same time, however, Mitchell was leaving the 2500 Club, while Willie remained in the club.

If the defense had not been deficient in calling Mitchell (and Jones and Miller) to present this significant evidence to the jurors, it seems reasonable to suppose that Willie could have been found innocent.

Willie deserves a new trial.

* “The prosecution had no evidence that Manning had a car that night or that anyone had given him a ride to campus. Thus, according to the prosecution, after spending several hours at the club drinking, Manning walked to the other side of town on a chilly night, broke into a car, abducted two students who caught him, drove off with them in a two-seat car, shot them, drove her blood-streaked car to an apartment complex, and walked the ten or so miles home laden with stolen goods. All of this for a mere leather jacket, CD player with a cracked lid, a class ring that could easily be traced to the murder victim, and a handful of coins?”
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 73 (Page 81 0f PDF). State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015. 
Information for this post was taken from:
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 70 – 75 (pages 78 – 83 of PDF). State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. June 29, 2015.
and
Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, Motion for Leave to File Successive Petition for Post-Conviction Relief including DNA Testing and other Forensic Analysis, filed March 22, 2013. Pages 24 – 26. Print.
Posted in criminal justice, defense attorneys, Fly Manning, Mississippi, USA, Willie Manning, witness testimony, wrongful convictions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What we are doing is wrong

Of all the execution methods being considered in the Mississippi senate last week, it was the firing squad that was rejected; nitrogen hypoxia and electrocution are still being considered

Discounting the firing squad is understandable, as Radley Balko explains:
“We recoil at methods such as the guillotine, hanging and the firing squad as barbaric anachronisms of a different era, when crowds gathered to witness and revel in the event.”

Bryan Stevenson highlights a similar disquiet at having to protect marksmen:
“The firing squad – they go out of their way that not all the guns have real bullets, so that the marksmen can walk away thinking, I didn’t do it. But there’s still this dead body on the ground. If we feel the need to actually protect the moral misgivings of the people participating, then there is no greater evidence of what we are doing is wrong.”

From the point of view of the person being executed, however, the firing squad appears to be a less cruel option than the alternatives, as US Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor pointed out last month in a significant dissent to a petition from Alabama:
“[T]he available evidence suggests that a competently performed shooting may cause nearly instant death. In addition to being near instant, death by shooting may also be comparatively painless. And historically, the firing squad has yielded significantly fewer botched executions.”* 

She adds that, in contrast,
‘Science and experience are now revealing that, at least with respect to midazolam-centered protocols, prisoners executed by lethal injection are suffering horrifying deaths beneath a “medically sterile aura of peace.”’**

It seems, then, that Mississippi’s greatest concern is not to avert “cruel and unusual punishment”, but to prevent public opposition to executions. To paraphrase Bryan Stevenson,
“If we feel the need to actually protect the moral misgivings of the public, then there is no greater evidence of what we are doing is wrong.”

*Thomas D. Arthur v. Jefferson S Dunn, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections, et al, On Petition for Writ of Certiori to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, decided February 21, 2017, Sotomayor, J., dissenting (page 41 of the Supreme Court of the United States’ Order List 580 U.S., Tuesday, February 21, 2017) 
** Thomas D. Arthur v. Jefferson S Dunn, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections, et al, On Petition for Writ of Certiori to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, decided February 21, 2017, Sotomayor, J., dissenting (page 39 of the Supreme Court of the United States’ Order List 580 U.S., Tuesday, February 21, 2017)
Posted in capital punishment, death penalty, executions, firing squad, human rights abuse, lethal injections, Mississippi, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Repressive Social and Racial Control

Two years ago the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the two murder convictions in Willie Manning’s second case, saying:
“[T]he State violated his due-process rights when it failed to provide favorable, material evidence, upon request.”
Willie was fortunate.  If exculpatory police canvass notes had not been withheld at his trial (and later produced as evidence of this), he could have been executed on the basis of a witness’s false, coerced, recanted testimony.

Willie’s experience serves to remind us of one argument against the death penalty: innocent people can be executed only too easily. Writing in the student magazine of Mississippi State University, The Reflector, Holly Travis refers to Willie’s exoneration and the danger of executing innocents. She also outlines additional reasons to end capital punishment: it is extremely costly; it does not deter crime; and it is racially biased.

For many Mississippi lawmakers, such reasons are not persuasive. Earlier this month they advanced a plan to add nitrogen hypoxia, firing squad and electrocution as possible execution methods, if their preferred method of lethal injection drugs is blocked in court. Their bill, House Bill 638, met opposition but passed the house, and will be debated in the senate.

But even if the senate clears the bill, the law will intervene. Attorney Jim Craig has promised legal challenges for each proposed method.

His assurance is welcome. Opposing the death penalty is crucial in a free society; writing in The Nation, Jen Marlowe sums up why:

“When we grant states the right to kill its citizens, we are accepting all forms of state-sanctioned violence. Police killings, mass incarceration, surveillance, immigration raids, stop and frisk, and other methods of repressive social and racial control are part of the same destructive system in which capital punishment is the sharpest edge.”

We wish Jim Craig success.

 

Posted in African American, capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, executions, Mississippi, racial control, social control, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,