A Method of Control

Clive Stafford Smith has played a pivotal role in Willie Manning’s cases, first as Willie’s post-conviction lawyer, and later as publicist for some of the injustices inflicted on him.

Last month Stafford Smith joined other death penalty experts in condemning capital punishment in the USA, which he describes as a “total farce”. He argues that executing people has been a method of control, built on racism. [Willie’s two unrelated cases, both deeply flawed, serve to illustrate this argument.]

He refers to death row inmates’ treatment as “torture” [with their years of inhumane incarceration, and the specter of execution always hanging over them]. He claims that
“[N]o-one with any sensibilities wants to be involved.”
He recalls his own “mild form of post-traumatic stress disorder” derived from watching one of his clients being put to death in a particularly gruesome way.

But Stafford Smith has hope for the future. He feels that the death penalty’s days are numbered, because the public are turning against it:
“Even the people who support the death penalty are deeply ambivalent; they know that the argument it achieves something positive is ridiculous, and increasingly so.”

It is good to know that, based on his extensive understanding of the death penalty, Stafford Smith expects it to be abolished within his lifetime; his optimism should encourage us. And we trust that when Willie hears about the words of his former lawyer and friend, they will give him strength.  We are grateful that Clive Stafford Smith remains a Willie Manning supporter.

Posted in capital punishment, Clive Stafford Smith, criminal justice, death penalty, Mississippi, torture, USA, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Legal Challenges to Execution Methods

Until early April only two US states allowed the firing squad as a method of execution. In early April, Mississippi joined Oklahoma and Utah in permitting this “barbaric anachronism of a different era” Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant approved three additional methods of execution by approving House Bill 638. The state protocol now allows the firing squad as well as nitrogen hypoxia and electrocution.

The firing squad option was originally rejected by the House, but was later reinstated, and approved by the Senate. 

Nitrogen hypoxia has never been used to execute humans, but American Veterinary Association guidelines do not permit it for euthanizing some animals. It is permitted as an execution method in only five other states (Arizona, California, Missouri, Oklahoma and Wyoming). Electrocution is allowed in eight other states.

Robert Dunham, of the Death Penalty Information Center, notes that national public opinion recoils from gas chambers, firing squads and the electric chair as being cruel and unusual punishment. Dunham believes Mississippians’ support of such options could result in reduced business development in the state:
“Even if the public in Mississippi thought that (alternatives) were OK, it’s bad for business because it creates an image of the state as being barbaric. That is not a good atmosphere for economic development.”

Jim Craig, an attorney with the New Orleans-based Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center, who is suing Mississippi over lethal injection drugs, has said that each of the new methods of executions will be challenged in court. He explained that every additional method “injects a whole new series of issues in the existing case.” For instance, with the firing squad the state would have to specify protocols and procedures to decrease the risk of torture.

We are grateful to Craig for his dedication. And we trust Mississippi will reconsider its proposed descent into barbarism.

Posted in capital punishment, death penalty, electrocution, executions, firing squad, Fly Manning, Mississippi, nitrogen hypoxia, USA, Willie Jerome Manning, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Frank Parker: Snitch Testimony

At the trial where Willie Manning was convicted of murdering two students, Frank Parker testified that he had overheard Willie saying he “sold the gun on the street”. Thus Willie was linked to the murders, and specifically to the missing murder weapon.[i]

But Parker was far from credible as a witness. He said he had come to Mississippi to escape criminal charges in Texas, and claimed that when he was in Starkville he decided to turn himself in. He was placed in Oktibbeha County Jail, with Willie as a cellmate; this was where he maintained he heard Willie talking about the murders.[ii] He later stated that before he agreed to testify, the sheriff (Dolph Bryan) talked to him about the students’ murders and showed him photos of the victims at the crime scene.[iii]

At Willie’s trial Parker claimed that charges against him in Texas had been dropped, but this was not true: he was facing a sentence of two to ten years.[iv] Willie’s prosecutors knew or should have known this, but did not correct Parker’s claims.[v] When Parker eventually returned to Texas, and pled guilty to theft, he reaped the benefits of testifying against Willie: his trial judge accepted a plea bargain rewarding him for the testimony.[vi] Willie’s jury was unaware of this as a possible motivation for Parker.

Similarly, Willie’s jurors were not shown letters, written by Parker to Willie’s prosecutor and judge, indicating that Parker was also motivated by the hope of receiving reward money.[vii]

Parker’s uncle later declared his nephew to be thoroughly untrustworthy:
“I would not take [Frank’s] word for anything. I have no idea about whether the defendant in Mississippi is guilty or innocent, but I would not let anything that Frank said have any bearing at all on any case.”[viii] 

Parker’s testimony is highly questionable evidence, as is the testimony of jailhouse snitches in many other cases. As Radley Balko notes:
“Most jailhouse snitches are lying…

…The very idea that people regularly confess to crimes that could put them in prison for decades, or possibly even get them executed, to someone they just met in a jail cell and have known for all of a few hours is and has always been preposterous. Not to mention the fact that these are people whose word prosecutors wouldn’t trust under just about any other circumstance.”

The indications are that the state used Parker in order to obtain false testimony inculpating Willie. It is one of many irregularities in this case. Willie deserves a new trial.

[i] 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. Supreme Court of Mississippi, filed March 22, 2013. Page 21. Print.
[ii] Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, Supreme Court of Mississippi, October 8, 2001. Page 33 (page 41 of pdf). Web. June 29, 2015. 
[iii] Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, Supreme Court of Mississippi, October 8, 2001. Exhibit 21 (affidavit of Kristen Murray); Exhibit 22 (affidavit of Deena Kalai). Pages 179 – 184 of pdf. Web. June 29, 2015.
[iv] Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, Supreme Court of Mississippi, October 8, 2001. Exhibit 17. Pages 164 – 167 of pdf. Web. June 29, 2015.
[v] Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, Supreme Court of Mississippi, October 8, 2001. Pages 36 and 37 (pages 44 and 45 of pdf). Web. June 29, 2015.
[vi]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. Supreme Court of Mississippi, filed March 22, 2013. Pages 23 – 24. Print.
[vii]Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, Supreme Court of Mississippi, October 8, 2001. Page 36 (page 44 of pdf). Web. June 29, 2015.
[viii]Willie Jerome Manning v. State of Mississippi, Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, Supreme Court of Mississippi, October 8, 2001. Exhibit 11 (affidavit of Chester Blanchard). Pages 146 – 147 of pdf. Web. June 29, 2015.
Posted in capital punishment, death penalty, Fly Manning, incentivized witnesses, jailhouse informant, jailhouse snitch, Mississippi, snitch testimony, USA, Willie Jerome Manning, Willie Manning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,