A Welcome Respite

Periods of active state execution are always traumatic for death row inmates: it is torturous watching people that you know being taken away to be killed.

It is very good news for Willie Manning and his fellow inmates, then, that the current three-year respite from the scheduling of executions in Mississippi is likely to be further prolonged by a case out of Missouri. The US Supreme Court has agreed to review the Missouri case, which addresses the means by which an inmate can show that a less painful execution method is available; the outcome could be relevant to litigation in Mississippi.

Mississippi’s execution protocol has evolved in response to shortages of drugs previously used for lethal injections. Midazolam has replaced pentobarbital as the first drug for the state’s 3-drug protocol, despite huge concerns about its efficacy as an anaesthetic. 

Mississippi further demonstrates its commitment to executions by its recent addition of non-drug options for execution: if lethal injection is considered ‘unconstitutional or “otherwise unavailable”’, then it can use nitrogen hypoxia, electrocution or firing squad to kill the convicted. 

The firing squad was initially rejected by a Senate committee but was reinstated by the Mississippi House.

At least while litigation continues, it is unlikely that any execution dates will be set in Mississippi. And we are thankful for that.

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Posted in capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, executions, Mississippi, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Flawed Snitch Testimony

“Jailhouse snitch” testimony is notoriously unreliable because the incarcerated witnesses are strongly motivated to say what the prosecution wants, usually because they get substantial reductions in their own sentences in return.”
                                                    National Registry of Exonerations, May 13, 2015

Given this unreliability, it is no surprise that jailhouse informants feature in nearly a quarter of US death penalty cases where the convicted person has ultimately been exonerated. And we should be very concerned when existing death penalty cases have depended heavily on jailhouse witnesses to secure a conviction.

One such case is Willie Manning’s remaining one, where two unreliable jailhouse snitches, Earl Jordan and Frank Parker, were used by the state to make a case against him.  Jordan recanted his trial testimony informally a few years ago; unfortunately he has not signed an affidavit confirming this.

Another worrying case is that of Curtis Flowers, an African American like Willie, and incarcerated alongside him on Mississippi’s death row. Two jailhouse snitches in Curtis’s case have recanted formally, and a third recently told a reporter during a podcast that he, too, lied. Other revelations emerged during the In the Dark podcast that increase the doubts about Curtis’s conviction.

Mississippi courts should allow Curtis’s appeals, and recognize the part played by flawed snitch testimony in landing him on death row. In Willie’s case, too, the courts should accept that the use of jailhouse witnesses destroyed any hope of a fair trial.

We trust Mississippi will listen.

 

 

Posted in capital punishment, criminal justice, Curtis Flowers, death penalty, jailhouse snitches, Mississippi, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Never give up hope.

Anthony Ray Hinton’s wrongful conviction and death sentence for murder in Alabama is as shocking as it is revealing. Soon after Hinton’s arrest a police officer told him:

“You know, I don’t care whether you did or didn’t do it. In fact, I believe you didn’t do it. But it doesn’t matter. If you didn’t do it, one of your brothers did. And you’re going to take the rap… I can give you five reasons why they are going to convict you…
Number one, you’re black. Number two, a white man gonna say you shot him. Number three, you’re gonna have a white district attorney. Number four, you’re gonna have a white judge. And number five, you’re gonna have an all-white jury.
You know what that spell?
Conviction. Conviction. Conviction. Conviction. Conviction.”*

The police officer’s racist prediction turned out to be correct: despite having a watertight alibi for the crime for which he was arrested, Hinton was landed on death row by a lying witness, mistaken witness identification and false ballistics evidence. Charges against him were finally dropped in 2015, shortly before charges were dropped in one of Willie Manning’s cases.

The racism in Hinton’s case would not have surprised Willie: racism also underpinned his convictions in Mississippi. In his concluded case a white prosecutor and two white law enforcement officers coerced the key witness to testify against Willie. In his ongoing case a white judge allowed the same white prosecutor to strike African American jurors from his trial; the prosecutor also unfairly denigrated Willie publicly.

Hinton is an inspirational man who has sent Willie a message: “Never give up hope”. We echo that message. We hope that it is not long before Willie, like Hinton, can finally establish his innocence.

*From Anthony Ray Hinton’s memoir, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row (Rider, an imprint of Ebury Publishing, 2018), Chapter 5, pp 51 – 52.
Oprah Winfrey was extremely enthusiastic about Hinton’s memoir when she recently chose it as her book club selection; she declared “I hope every person who can hear our voice today buys this book!” You can watch Hinton talking to Oprah Winfrey about his case here.
Posted in African American, Anthony Ray Hinton, capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, Mississippi, racism, The Sun Does Shine, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy 50th birthday!

Happy 50th birthday!

Today, June 12, 2018, we wish Willie Jerome Manning a happy 50th birthday.

Happy birthday, Willie!

Posted in capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, Death Row, Fly Manning, Mississippi, Oktibbeha County, Parchman, USA, Willie Jerome Manning, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

DNA Profiles: the Latest

An update on the progress of DNA testing in Willie Manning’s case has been issued. The statement refers to hair samples, which we understand to be fragments vacuumed from the floor of Tiffany Miller’s car,* and to other items that are available for screening. Willie’s attorney wrote:

“The lab… reported… that partial mitochondrial DNA profiles suitable for comparison were obtained from some of the samples… We are reviewing the evidence inventory list to determine priorities for testing and will confer with the lab personnel about the next items which should be screened for DNA.”

It is good to learn that DNA profiles on the hair fragments can be compared, and that more items are likely to be screened for DNA. We wish Willie well as he waits.

*See more about this testing here and here. For more about how the hair fragments were used at Willie’s trial, see here. 
This post was amended on May 26, 2018, to clarify that items in addition to the hair fragments are likely to be screened for DNA.
Posted in capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, DNA testing, Mississippi, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Five Years On

May 7, 2013 was Willie Manning’s scheduled execution date. Five years on, we recall that time through quotations. And we sincerely hope that Willie will never again experience that appalling trauma.

“Mississippi, prove that institutional racism is no longer a part of your southern heritage, or admit that the execution of Willie Manning is yet another Mississippi lynching.”
Sister Maati, of Our Community Against Racism, May 3, 2013

To … sanction the execution of Willie Manning … would be counter to fundamental due process, the eighth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution and to the Mississippi Constitution.”
Willie Manning v. State of Mississippi. Reply to State’s Opposition, May 6, 2013*

“We’ll be having a vigil at Smith Park in downtown Jackson at 5:45pm tomorrow afternoon.  Another vigil is planned for the same time at the demonstration area of Parchman.  Arrival time is between 4pm and 5pm.  The gates shut at 5pm on the dot.”
Ben Russell, Mississippians Educating for Smart Justice, May 6 2013

“The FBI, in an unprecedented string of three letters, has admitted that two of its experts gave false testimony at Manning’s trial…”
Willie Manning v. State of Mississippi. Supplement to Motion to Stay Execution… May 7 2013†

“[That was] one of the hardest days of my life, you know. I was making that the execution was going to go through. It was, like, you got three hours you know.”     
Marshon Manning (Willie’s brother), speaking about being with Willie on May 7, 2013   

“Manning is finding plenty of support for a review of new evidence from the online community. Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites are asking people to get involved before the final hour of execution … it appears that the man who might be innocent is getting international attention.”
AllVoices, May 7, 2013

“Going through that whole process had left me in a way mentally that I could not explain. I still can’t… That was truly an experience…”
Willie Manning, writing about the stress of being hours from execution

“A Mississippi man scheduled to be put to death on Tuesday was granted a stay of execution by the State Supreme Court, after the United States Department of Justice sent lawyers and officials involved in the case several letters disavowing the degree of certainty expressed by F.B.I. forensic experts at the man’s trial.”
New York Times,  May 7, 2013

“In my view, executing someone based on dubious evidence reflects more on the executioner than it does on the condemned.”
Andrew Cohen, May 8, 2013

* Willie Manning v. State of Mississippi. 2013-DR-00491-SCT. Reply to State’s Opposition. In the Supreme Court of Mississippi, May 6, 2013. State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. May 6, 2018.
†Willie Manning v. State of Mississippi. 2013-DR-00491-SCT. Supplement to Motion to Stay Execution and Set Aside Convictions, Second Motion for Leave to File Successive Petition for Post-Conviction Relief,  and Motion in the Alternative for Post-Conviction Relief. In the Supreme Court of Mississippi, May 7 2013. State of Mississippi Judiciary. Web. May 6, 2018.

 

 

 

Posted in capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, execution, Mississippi, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Two Unqualifed Attorneys

In Willie Manning’s 1992 case, the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court had great difficulty performing its duty to appoint a post-conviction attorney who was qualified for capital cases. The court ignored Willie’s own choice of attorney, who was suitably qualified. Instead it appointed first one, and then, incredibly, a second attorney who lacked the requisite qualifications.

As a result of the delays, Willie missed a crucial filing deadline; he was unfairly blamed for this error.* Appallingly, this led to an execution date being scheduled for him.

It is hard to avoid Tucker Carrington’s conclusion:
“In my mind, the state had written Willie off. ‘Who gives a f*** about this guy?”

A report published last month, The Right to Counsel in Mississippi, reveals that there are many state wide problems in indigent defense lawyering . It notes that “Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the nation” … “against a backdrop of higher crime than that seen nationally.” The authors find that counties and municipalities thus struggle to fund even the minimum constitutional requirements for effective indigent defense.

The report concludes by recommending legislation to help the state improve defense services for those of limited means.

We hope that the report’s recommendations are implemented. Willie’s suffering should not be repeated.

* Willie Jerome Manning Petitioner-Appellant & Cross-Appellee v. Christopher Epps, Commisioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections, and Jim Hood, Attorney General, Respondents-Appellees & Cross-Appellants. 10-70008. Response to Cross-Appeal and Reply Brief of Petitioner-Appellant filed in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Filed December 15, 2010. Pages 6 – 11 (pages 15 – 20 of pdf).

 


Posted in African American, death penalty, defense attorneys, legislation, Mississippi, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Real Murderers may have Killed Again

Willie Manning has always claimed innocence in both his cases, and has already been exonerated in one case. Referring to Willie’s remaining case, former policeman Vincent Hill explains that the murders of two students indicate not robbery, but a crime of passion. He adds,
(At 50.10) “Unfortunately, I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again – there’s someone out there that has gotten away with this murder, because just looking at the wounds, especially to Tiffany, they were personal. They were personal, they were personal, you know. That does not happen in a robbery. It just doesn’t happen.’

Moreover, it is also possible that the real perpetrator has killed again, perhaps repeatedly, at liberty to murder because the wrong person is confined. It is equally possible that in Willie’s second case the real murderer has killed again.

Frank Baumgartner and his wife, Jennifer Thompson, are trying to raise public awareness that:
“[P]reventing wrongful convictions is not just a way of stopping individual injustices: it’s a way of fighting crime.”

Baumgartner estimates that of the approximately 40,000 wrongful convictions every year in the USA, perhaps a quarter involves the actual perpetrator remaining at large. Some must be murderers, who may kill again.

We wish Baumgartner and Thompson success with their campaign. And we hope the public demands that Willie should have a new trial.

 

Posted in capital punishment, crime, criminal justice, death penalty, fighting crime, Mississippi, police, USA, Willie Manning, wrongful convictions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No History of Violence

Willie Manning’s history supports his claim that he has never committed murder. He had previous convictions, but never for violence. As one of his attorneys confirmed,
“He didn’t have any violent convictions. His criminal history was for things like theft.”

Willie also struck his friends as noticeably peaceful. One of them, Mary Prater, described Willie (sometimes known as Jerome) in an affidavit in 2001:
“Jerome was not someone who was considered violent or got into fights. I remember one time when Jerome was about 15 years old, we were all at the skating rink, and someone wanted to fight Jerome. Jerome, however, just walked away. That was basically how he was.”*

Another friend of the family, David Skato, described Willie as a nice guy who “wouldn’t bust a grape” and “would give you the shirt off his back”.**

This does not sound like the description of a murderer; on the contrary, it is consistent with Willie’s claim of innocence. We hope he is soon given the chance to demonstrate his innocence in his remaining case. He deserves to be granted a new trial.

*See Willie Jerome Manning’s Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, filed in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court on October 8 2001, Exhibit 38 (pages 373 – 374 of pdf). 
**On the day before Willie’s scheduled execution in May 2013, Blog Talk Radio’s “The Other Side of Justice” featured a program about Willie, Dead Man Walking. The Willie Manning Case. In it Vincent Hill, a private investigator and ex-policeman, interviewed Willie’s childhood friend, David Skato, about the prosecution’s version of what happened when the two students were murdered. The interview does not start properly until 4 minutes into the recording. The passage about his childhood starts at 5.50.
Posted in criminal justice, death penalty, Fly Manning, Mississippi, USA, Willie Jerome Manning, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“This System’s all a Lie”

Steven Hayne was the medical examiner at Willie Manning’s trial and at many others in Mississippi; he was unqualified and scandalously incompetent (see here and here). 

A book just published, “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South”, recounts shocking miscarriages of justice facilitated by Hayne and his partner, forensic dentist Michael West, in the courts of Mississippi.

The authors, Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington, believe that a flawed system has allowed this abuse to occur. Carrington feels that the “structural racism and classism” in the US criminal justice system are compounded by poor resourcing; and Balko notes that there have been forensic scandals throughout the USA, which he attributes to “bad incentives and an inattentive, overfed system.”

But the authors also agree that the particularly shameful racism of Mississippi played a part in allowing Hayne and West to operate with impunity. As Balko says,
“[The criminal justice system in Mississippi] was designed during the Jim Crow era for a very specific purpose, which was to aid law enforcement in whatever law enforcement needed to do during the Civil Rights [Movement]. That meant covering up the killings of Civil Rights activists, before that [it was] covering up lynching. [The case is] about how that legacy still kind of remains with us today. I think it’s a system that serves people in power. You can’t talk about a system that serves [the] powerful at the extent of the powerless without talking about race.”

One reviewer concludes:
“The two authors… make the case beyond a reasonable doubt that the justice system in places like Mississippi has been rigged for decades.”

Willie Manning agrees. In his poem, “When Death Row Speaks”, he asks:

“How many times have I shed tears …
How many people have to die …
Before this nation starts to realize
That this system’s all a lie?”

We hope that this book will help to expose the lie.

 

Posted in African American, capital punishment, criminal justice, death penalty, Fly Manning, Injustice, miscarriages of justice, Mississippi, The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South, USA, Willie Jerome Manning, Willie Manning, wrongful convictions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,