Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Willie Manning: Mississippi; Momentous decision: State abandons murder prosecution for which he was sentenced to death in 1996 after a jury convicted him of murdering 90-year-old Alberta Jordan and her 60-year-old daughter, Emmoline Jimmerson during a robbery on Jan. 18, 1993, in Starkville. (Now Manning, with the assistance of the Innocence Project, can focus on his battle for exoneration - through fingerprint and DNA testing ( thanks to a recent victory in the Mississippi Supreme Court) - on the double-murder charges he is still facing. (The Steckler-Miller murders)); HL);;

STORY: Prosecution dropped in Manning case," by reporter Alex Holloway, published by the Starkville Daily News on April 22, 2015.

GIST: "The state of Mississippi’s case against Willie “Fly” Manning in the 1993 murder of two elderly women has come to a dead end after Mississippi 16th Circuit Judge Lee Howard approved an order ending the prosecution Monday in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court. Manning was sentenced to death in 1996 after a jury convicted him of murdering 90-year-old Alberta Jordan and her 60-year-old daughter, Emmoline Jimmerson during a robbery on Jan. 18, 1993, in Starkville."

The entire story can be found at:


See fascinating Wikipedia account: "Willie Jerome "Fly" Manning (born June 12, 1968) is on death row at Mississippi State Penitentiary, with two death sentences for a conviction of double murder (Steckler-Miller murders). He was previously also convicted and sentenced to death for a second double murder (Jimmerson-Jordan murders), but the charges against him for these murders were eventually dropped.........(Jimmerson-Jordan murders):  In 1993, 90-year-old Emmoline Jimmerson and her 60-year-old daughter, Alberta Jordan, were murdered during an attempted robbery at their apartment in Starkville. They had been beaten and their throats were slashed. In 1996 Manning was convicted of their murder, and sentenced to death.[29] The state's key witness, Kevin Lucious,[30] has been serving two life sentences without parole in St. Louis, Missouri, since the mid-1990s, for murder convictions there.[31] Lucious testified that he saw Manning enter the Jimmerson-Jordan apartment on the night of the murders; he also testified that Manning later told him that he had committed the murders."[32] Lucious was the only eyewitness to testify that he saw Manning enter the women’s home, and no witnesses said they saw Manning leave that apartment."[33] Lucious formally recanted his testimony in 2011. He also filed affidavits stating that his statements given to authorities and his testimony at Manning’s 1996 trial were false, and coerced by authorities because he was afraid he would be charged with the murders.[34] He said that law enforcement produced the information for him to use when testifying.[35] In a 7-2 decision on February 12, 2015, the Mississippi Supreme Court said notes made by Starkville police when they knocked on doors at the complex revealed that the apartment where Lucious claimed to live was in fact vacant when the crime occurred;[36] they also showed that neither Lucious nor his girlfriend were resident in any of the apartments canvassed. The court said police withheld this information from both the district attorney's office and Manning's defense attorneys. For the majority Justice Randolph wrote: "[T]he State violated Manning’s due-process rights by failing to provide favorable, material evidence." He added "There is no question that defense counsel would have had the opportunity to meaningfully impeach Lucious’s testimony that he lived in the apartment at the time of the crime and saw Manning enter the victims’ apartment. Any attorney worth his salt would salivate at impeaching the State’s key witness using evidence obtained by the Starkville Police Department."[37 The Mississippi Supreme Court's 7-2 decision granted Manning a new trial for this case,[38] but the charges against him were dropped on April 20 2015. ( Outstanding Steckler-Miller murder charges): Jon Steckler, 19, and Tiffany Miller, 22, two students at Mississippi State University in Starkville were kidnapped from the street in front of Steckler's fraternity house on December 11, 1992. About an hour later, a motorist found Steckler shot in the back of the head and left for dead by the side of a road, having been run over by Miller's car, a Toyota MR2.[1] When law enforcement officers arrived, they found Miller's body in nearby woods. She had been shot twice, in the forehead and mouth.[2] Steckler died shortly thereafter. In the morning, Miller's car was found near the MSU campus.[3] Also that morning, one of Steckler's fraternity brothers, John Wise, found his car had been burglarized. The trial of Manning included testimony that he possessed and also tried to sell items stolen from the Wise burglary. One of the items stolen was a gas station token.[4] A very similar token was found at the scene of the killings.[5] Also stolen was a black leather bomber jacket that was later recovered from Manning's girlfriend who testified at trial that Manning had given it to her; and a portable CD player, which was traced by its serial number from Wise to a pawn shop in Jackson. The person who pawned it, Gaylon Hall, testified that he obtained it from Manning.[6] Ginger Wallace testified that she saw Manning wearing a leather jacket and in possession of a gold class ring and a watch similar to Steckler's.[7] Prosecutors said that Manning had a record of convictions for theft and other crimes and had recently been paroled.[8] Manning said that he did not commit the murders, and that he was at a club on the night of the murders."[9] He stated that the property he was selling was stolen by someone he did not know,[10] Manning was convicted of the murders of Steckler and Miller after a jury trial; the jury deliberated for one hour.[11] Manning was sentenced to death on November 8, 1994." [12] Mr. Manning's lawyers argued that some of the trial witness testimony contradicted known facts. They also contended that Manning’s former girlfriend, a key witness, was granted a favorable plea deal on fraud charges, in addition to almost $18,000, to reward her for testifying for the prosecution, arrangements which were not fully disclosed to the trial jury."[13] Manning's lawyers alleged that she also tried to implicate Manning when she asked him leading questions that were secretly recorded by officials and not disclosed to defense attorneys."[14] Manning said that at his trial the prosecutor, Forrest Allgood, illegally dismissed as potential jurors African Americans who read African American magazines, on the grounds that these were liberal publications."[15] Manning’s former girlfriend, said she had once seen Mr. Manning firing a gun into a tree. An F.B.I. firearms expert testified that bullets found in the tree had been fired from the same gun as the bullets used in the murders. However, this testimony was later discredited. Issues were found with an FBI firearms examiner who testified in the case. A US Justice Department letter stated: “The science regarding firearms examinations does not permit examiner testimony that a specific gun fired a specific bullet to the exclusion of all other guns in the world. The examiner could testify to that information, to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, but not absolutely.[16] He added, "As with any process involving human judgment, claims of infallibility or impossibility of error are not supported by scientific standards."[17] As well as the firearms letter, the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice sent other letters. These stated that an FBI examiner had misrepresented his findings about hair fibers,[18] found in Miller’s car, when he concluded that the hair came from an African American. The two victims were white, but Manning is black. This hair sample was the only physical evidence that connected Manning to the murder scene. The authorities stated, "We have determined that the microscopic hair comparison analysis testimony or laboratory report presented in this case included statements that exceeded the limits of science and was, therefore, invalid."[19] Federal officials scrutinized Manning’s case as part of a wider review of the FBI’s analysis of scientific evidence in thousands of violent crimes in the 1980s and 1990s, intended to correct errors in forensic hair examinations before 2000."[20] Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood responded, "The Mississippi Supreme Court has held that the evidence is so overwhelming as to Manning's guilt [that] even if technologies were available to determine the source of the hair, to indicate someone other than Manning, it would not negate other evidence that shows his guilt."[21] Oktibbeha County District Attorney, Forrest R. Allgood, who tried Manning, said that because only fragments of hair were recovered the FBI hair expert, Chester E. Blythe, had not been able to match Manning to the crime-scene hairs. According to Allgood the FBI’s admission of the error was therefore irrelevant."[22] Allgood added that Manning’s call for DNA testing was probably a delaying tactic. Representatives from the Innocence Project supported DNA testing, saying that it had exonerated even prisoners with seemingly strong evidence against them. Similarly, one of the dissenting judges, Justice James W. Kitchens, wrote “whatever potential harm the denial seeks to avert is surely outweighed by the benefits of ensuring justice by the scientific analysis of all the trace evidence.” Manning pointed out that multiple fingerprints found in Miller's car matched neither him nor the two victims. There were indications of sexual assault on Ms. Miller, but analysis of a rape kit at the time did not reveal evidence of seminal fluid.[23] Manning alleged that DNA testing could be done."[24] Benjamin Russell, from the organization, Mississippians Educating for Smart Justice, said that physical evidence from the crime scene included hair found in both victims’ hands, scrapings from under the victims’ nails, and hair fragments found in the car. He added that modern DNA testing, unavailable when the murders occurred, could determine Manning’s guilt or innocence and probably identify the person who committed the murders.[25]
Mr Manning’s lawyers stated "A finding by the circuit court that Manning's conviction in the Brooksville Gardens case was procured on the basis of false testimony would also be relevant to the claims in this case (the college students), because it would show a pattern of reliance on testimony procured unfairly.".[26] On May 7, 2013, in an 8-1 ruling, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted a last-minute stay of execution to Manning.[27] On July 25, 2013, the same Court reversed its earlier 5-4 ruling preventing the testing of the fingerprints and DNA evidence. The new ruling, which was unanimous, allowed Manning to request analysis of both.[28]


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