Miss. high court denies petition to stop execution in Willie Jerome Manning case

By Jack Elliott Jr./The Associated Press

JACKSON — The Mississippi Supreme Court has refused to stop the execution of death row inmate Willie Jerome Manning, who was convicted of killing two college students two decades ago.

The 5-4 decision came in an order Thursday. The court made no other comment.

The Supreme Court split along the same lines when it denied Manning’s post-conviction appeal a week ago. The majority said there was substantial evidence to convict Manning. The four justices who sided with Manning said the DNA testing, if favorable to the inmate, would raise questions about his guilt.

In his motion to stay the execution, Manning had said a delay would allow time for the court to reconsider its initial ruling on DNA testing.

Manning had argued that the testing would show he didn’t kill two Mississippi State University students in 1992. He is scheduled to die by injection at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the state penitentiary at Parchman.

Manning, now 44, was handed two death sentences for the slayings of Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller, whose bodies were discovered in rural Oktibbeha County on Dec. 11, 1992. Each was shot to death, and Miller’s car was missing. The vehicle was found the next morning.

Prosecutors said Manning was arrested after he tried to sell some items belonging to the victims.

Manning’s attorney, David P. Voisin of Jackson, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Voisin had said in court documents that Manning would ask Gov. Phil Bryant for clemency.

Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock said Thursday that the governor was reviewing the case.

Unless a federal court intervenes, Manning will be moved Monday from death row at the Mississippi Delta penitentiary to a holding cell near the execution room.

Click video to hear audio