Willie Jerome Manning opposes setting of execution date

By Jack Elliott Jr./The Associated Press

JACKSON — Willie Jerome Manning has told the Mississippi Supreme Court that he has more arguments to make so now is not the time to be setting an execution date sought by the attorney general’s office.

Manning was recently denied an appeal by the U.S. Supreme Court in the deaths of two college students. The attorney general’s office asked the Mississippi court to set the date of execution for April 24.

In a brief filed Monday, Manning’s attorney said there are issues pending before the Mississippi court in which Manning seeks a new trial; among them are arguments that a jailhouse informant had recanted his testimony, that Manning’s trial attorney was ineffective and that blacks were improperly kept off his trial jury.

Manning also said there was a chance Gov. Phil Bryant would grant him clemency.

The attorney general’s office has not yet filed a response.

Manning, now 44, received two death sentences for the 1992 slayings of two Mississippi State University students, Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller.

On Dec. 11, 1992, the bodies of Miller and Steckler were discovered in rural Oktibbeha County. Both students had been shot to death, and Miller’s car was missing. The vehicle was found the next morning.

Prosecutors said Manning was arrested after he attempted to sell certain items belonging to the victims.

Manning contends three prosecution witnesses lied in their testimony because “they were given reward money and-or because their own criminal charges were dismissed or drastically reduced.”

Manning also points to second capital murder case where he has motions pending.

In February, the Mississippi Supreme Court asked an Oktibbeha County judge to explain why no ruling has been issue on a post-conviction petition filed by Manning in a case involving the deaths of two women. An Oktibbeha County judge has since told the court he will have a ruling by June 28.

Manning was convicted in 1996 for the killings of Emmoline Jimmerson, 90, and Alberta Jordan, about 60, in Starkville. The women were beaten and their throats slashed during a robbery attempt in 1993 at the Brookville Gardens apartments. The Supreme Court upheld his two death sentences in 2000.

Manning’s attorney said Monday that the resetting of an execution date would thwart the Supreme Court’s desire to have that case brought to a close.

Manning said the key issue to be addressed in the 1993 case is the issue that an eye witness has recanted.

Kevin Lucious, according to court records, testified that he saw Manning force his way into the women’s apartment. Lucious said he was looking out the window of his apartment at the time.

Then at a hearing in Oktibbeha County in January of 2011, Lucious recanted that testimony, saying he didn’t live in the apartment at the time of the women’s death.

Manning, in his brief to the Supreme Court, said Lucious’ testimony was corroborated by police department records not given to Manning’s trial attorney. He said prosecutors also did not disclose the police records.

“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,” Manning’s attorney wrote.

Click video to hear audio