NAACP Support Reported in ‘The Reflector’, 1994
In November 1994, the Oktibbeha County NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) organized a march to protest against Willie Manning’s conviction for the 1992 murders of two white students. The group believed Willie’s conviction to be unsound, and speculated that racism had played a part in securing it.
The Mississippi community newspaper, The Reflector, reported on the march. The Reflector’s reporter interviewed Dr Douglas Conner, a prominent local writer, physician and civil rights leader*. At the time of the march in support of Willie, Dr Conner was Vice President of Oktibbeha County NAACP.
In ‘The Reflector’ interview, Dr Conner touched on various aspects of the case; his comments included the following:
“Manning was charged four months after the murders of Miller and Steckler and was chosen from a list of 22 black suspects the police believed capable of the crime. No white suspects were on the list.”
“No DNA testing was done on the white skin found under Tiffany Miller’s fingernails, and no physical evidence was brought forth in the case.”
“(The evidence was) circumstantial, shaky, confusing, unbelievable and poorly rehearsed.”
“Circuit Judge Lee Howard said the prosecution’s job was to prove he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I submit there was plenty of reasonable doubt.”
“We weren’t so much concerned protesting the conviction of a killer, but it was protesting the method it was done in. We don’t think the right person was convicted. We still think the killer is at large.”
*Dr Conner was committed to taking an assertive stance against intolerance, in this case as in many others. He stated: “I have learned to disagree with practices and policies without being disagreeable. I have learned to chip away in a steady manner at the vast walls of intolerance and bigotry– never to be content until all people, …. ‘are judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin'”. Mississippi Writers & Musicians
Information about the current work of the NAACP in Mississippi can be found at NAACP MS.