Willie Jerome Manning, who was convicted of murdering two people and was recently denied a DNA test that could have exonerated him and saved his life, is scheduled to die by lethal injection in Mississippi on Tuesday.
Manning, 44, was found guilty of killing two college students in 1992. But according to Dov Fox, an academic fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center, there was never any physical evidence linking him to the crime. The FBI has also recently acknowledged that the forensics evidence used to convict Manning was flawed.
The DNA test therefore represented an important chance for Manning to potentially prove he was not guilty, as he has always maintained.
Dov Fox via The Huffington Post:
Critical to the prosecution’s case was the last piece of evidence against Manning: expert testimony by an FBI agent that African American hair fragments were found in Miller’s car. Not only did DNA and fingerprints found at the crime scene never incriminate Manning himself, however. Two days ago, the Justice Department notified Manning’s lawyer and the County District Attorney that “testimony containing erroneous statements regarding microscopic hair comparison analysis was used in this case.” Federal officials have yet to detail the precise errors involved, but made clear in their letter that the FBI’s forensic evidence was unsound not least because it “exceeded the limits of science” at the time.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Justice Department discovered the errors “as part of a broad review of the FBI’s handling of . . . forensic hair examinations before 2000—at least 21,000 cases—to determine whether agents exaggerated the significance of purported hair ‘matches’ in lab reports or trial testimony.” This admission comes days after a 5-4 majority of the Mississippi Supreme Court denied a request by Manning’s lawyers to reexamine the forensic evidence in his case on the ground that “conclusive, overwhelming evidence of guilt was presented to the jury.”
...Now federal officials have for the first time ever acknowledged such errors in the FBI’s forensic analysis—errors that cut to the heart of the capital case against Willie Jerome Manning, for which he is sentenced to die on Tuesday. With the Justice Department’s unprecedented admission, the Mississippi governor must stay Manning’s pending execution and the state courts must forbid law enforcement from destroying retestable DNA evidence that could exonerate him. The stakes are high and urgent. Failure to act in time could result in the execution of an innocent man and would strike a grave blow to our criminal justice system.
Death Penalty News has urged Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to stay Manning’s execution and allow him to take the DNA test.
—Posted by Tracy Bloom.