Manning to get new forensic testing in deaths case

By Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal

JACKSON – Willie Jerome Manning will get DNA and fingerprint tests not available when he went on trial in an Oktibbeha County double murder in 1994.

Thursday, the Mississippi Supreme Court gave Manning’s defense team 60 days to file his request with the circuit court.

Manning’s attorneys argue that technological strides over the past 20 years, especially in DNA testing, could show he is innocent of the 1992 deaths of two Mississippi State University students.

He also insists fingerprints associated with the crime scene were never proven to be his.

But in 5-4 votes, the court also denied other appeal issues.

The testing order reversed an earlier decision in which the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Manning, now 44.

The Supreme Court stopped Manning’s execution on May 7 so it could further review his arguments.

The bodies of Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller were found in rural Oktibbeha County in December 1992. Manning was convicted and sentenced to death. Prosecutors said Manning was arrested after he tried to sell items belonging to the victims.

Manning’s efforts to stop his execution were supported by the U.S. Justice Department. The department said there were errors in FBI agents’ testimony about ballistics tests and hair analysis in the case.

The FBI said its microscopic analysis of evidence, particularly of hair samples found in the car of one of the victims, contained erroneous statements. The FBI also said there was incorrect testimony related to tests on bullets in the case.

The FBI has offered to conduct the DNA testing.

Manning’s lawyers said in filings with the Mississippi Supreme Court that the execution should be blocked based on the Justice Department’s disclosures and until further testing could be done.

The Mississippi attorney general’s office rebutted that testing wouldn’t exonerate Manning because the evidence is so overwhelming.

patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com