Thursday, May 2, 2013

Willie Manning; Mississippi; Andrew Cohen sets out in the Atlantic "the most important reason why the Manning case deserves a closer look before it is too late": "The failure of state officials to use modern techniques to test DNA and fingerprints from the crime scene."(Must Read. HL.)

COMMENTARY:  "A ghost of Mississippi: The Willie Manning case," by Andrew Cohen, published by the Atlantic on May 2, 2013.

GIST: "The most important reason why the Manning case deserves a closer look before it is too late is the failure of state officials to use modern techniques to test DNA and fingerprints from the crime scene. Last month, in rejecting Manning's latest claims, the state supreme court's majority ruled that the defendant was not entitled to DNA testing because the absence of his DNA from the crime scene -- assuming the tests came back negative -- would not exonerate him given the other evidence introduced at trial. That position, a form of which was argued by state lawyers in their briefs, is unsupported by common sense or Mississippi's history with DNA testing. Lawyers for the Mississippi Innocence Project, which as it often does has filed a brief urging DNA testing in this case, told the state justices late last week: "[O]f the seven people in Mississippi exonerated by DNA testing after being convicted and imprisoned. ... none were exonerated simply because their DNA was absent from the crime scene; they were exonerated because in each case the true perpetrator left their DNA at the crime scene. In six of those cases the true perpetrator was identified by the DNA testing and subsequent comparisons or DNA database searches, and in five cases the real perpetrator was charged with the crime after the wrongly convicted persons were exonerated." That is what is at stake here; no more, no less. By testing the DNA evidence still available, Mississippi could achieve two goals at the same time -- resolving Manning's claims and, if those claims are valid, finding a person responsible for the crime.........It's hard to understand what Mississippi is afraid of. Either the testing will incriminate Manning, or it could help break the case in a new direction. Either way we'll know more than we do now about what happened that awful night in 1992. If Manning is executed next week without those results, if his sorry story ends here without us knowing whether that scientific evidence incriminates or exonerates him, his ghost won't just haunt Mississippi forever. It will surely impact the national debate over how much we are willing to know about the truth of these cases, and about the men we are condemning to death."

The entire commentary can be found at:


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