(Jackson, MS) The Mississippi Supreme Court has granted a stay of execution for Willie Manning.
Manning was convicted in 1994 for the murders of two Mississippi college students, Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller.
An inmate who first said Manning confessed to the murders later changed his story.
Statement from Attorney General Jim Hood
I am sorry that the victims’ families will have to continue to live this 20 plus year nightmare. Out of an abundance of caution, our Court stayed the sentence until it had time to review this flurry of last minute filings. Yesterday evening our office filed a report with the Court, which I obtained from the district attorney’s office around 6:00 yesterday afternoon. The report states that there was no serological evidence from the victims’ fingernail scrapings or semen on the vaginal swabs from the rape test kit for a DNA test to identify. After having an opportunity to consider this new evidence, the senior attorneys in this office believe our Court will dissolve the stay and the sentence will be carried out. If, however, our Court orders that these items be retested, then we will carry out that order.
I am in conversations with the DOJ and FBI to determine how these last minute letters came about. After conversing with expert witnesses at our Crime Lab, it is clear that FBI experts and experts in all states used more conclusive language in their testimony up until around the time the 2009 National Academy of Science report was issued on forensics. Since then the policy of many experts has been to qualify their testimony by using the magic words “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty”. The FBI agents in this case were simply following the standards used in their fields at the time. The letters sent from the forensic taskforce chairman at DOJ, merely state that the science was not that exact in 1993, not that these agents were not following the standard followed by all of their colleagues at the time, both state and federal, in testifying to the degree of certainty.