UPDATED: Mississippi Issues Stay on Execution of Willie Jerome Manning
UPDATE: The Mississippi Supreme Court has just issued a stay of execution for Willie Jerome Manning, originally set to die by lethal injection at 6pm CDT tonight, the AP reports. The FBI has weighed in repeatedly, stating that evidence linking Manning to the murder of two college students in 1992 is invalid. Manning has requested a DNA test to prove his innocence. Details of the case below.
Federal authorities have acknowledged serious flaws in the case against a Mississippi man set to be executed today by lethal injection. But the state of Mississippi has rejected requests to conduct DNA tests related to the case.
The man, Willie Jerome Manning, was convicted of murdering two college students in 1992. But crucial questions have been raised about the case.
The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen points out that the Justice Department has sent a letter to lawyers acknowledging that “an FBI ‘hair’ analyst's ‘expert’ testimony at Manning's 1994 trial, testimony which helped incriminate the defendant by linking him to hair fibers found at the crime scene, ‘exceeded the limits of science and was, therefore, invalid.’” Furthermore, Cohen notes, another Justice Department letter revealed that that are questions about ballistics testimony that was presented at Manning’s trial.
Manning, a Black man accused of killing two white students, has maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal.
The questions about the evidence in the case come after the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that DNA tests don’t need to be conducted--a rarity, since most requests for tests are granted. The court ruled that the evidence was so strong that DNA tests wouldn’t matter. The FBI has offered to run its own DNA tests.
Meanwhile, Manning’s lawyers, who also say that witness accounts were inconsistent with known facts and that fingerprints found did not match Manning’s, have filed a separate suit in Mississippi. The suit aims to grant Manning a stay of execution. The governor has said he has not decided whether to block the planned execution.
“It is unconscionable that an execution would go forward where there is biological evidence that can cut to the truth and show whether or not he did the crime. What is anybody afraid of?” asked The Innocence Project’s Vanessa Potkin on Democracy Now!