Willie Jerome Manning was convicted of killing a mother and a daughter in 1993 in Starkville, Mississippi. His appeals were repeatedly denied. His post-conviction challenges were based upon unreliable evidence and incompetent assistance of counsel. He was sentenced to death for the murder of Emmoline Jimmerson, 90, and Alberta Jordan, 60, during a botched robbery at their apartment. The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Manning’s death sentence. He was scheduled for execution twice in 2000. For four years, Manning was granted stays to pursue three additional post-conviction challenges: (1) the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence, (2) they knowingly presented false evidence, and (3) Manning was denied effective counsel during his appeal. In May of 2013, Manning came extremely close to being executed by lethal injection for the December 1992 murders of Mississippi State University students Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller, for which he was also convicted and sentenced to death. The Mississippi Supreme Court denied Manning’s request for DNA testing by a 5-4 decision. The judges had stated that “conclusive, overwhelming evidence of guilt” rendered testing unnecessary. The FBI during an investigation into widespread inaccurate testimony by their experts, they sent a letter to Mississippi authorities admitting mistakes in the Manning case and others regarding hair and ballistics evidence. Mere hours before he was set to die, the same court stayed his execution by a vote of 8 to 1. A few months later, the court unanimously overturned their previous decision to deny testing.

After several more denials, the state Supreme Court has now granted him a new trial in the case of Jimmerson and Jordan, based upon withheld exculpatory evidence and the prosecution presenting false evidence. The state Supreme Court in a 7-2 decision noted that when police knocked on doors in the apartment complex, the apartment the witness claimed to live in was vacant. Police withheld this information from the defense. This fact could have made an impact on the reliability of the witness’ testimony. The witness was the prosecution’s star witness, the only person to put Manning at the scene. How could the witness have seen Manning at the scene if they didn’t really live there?

“The State violated Manning’s due-process rights by failing to provide favorable, material evidence”.

Currently, Manning’s other conviction stands. DNA testing is pending in the case. Hair and ballistics testimony has been called into question and at least 4 judges have stated that the evidence presented at trial in the case of the two students has been “undermined”.

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