On October 29, 1988, Warren Douglas Manning was pulled over for a broken headlight in Dillon County, South Carolina. State trooper George Radford then arrested Manning because he was driving with a suspended license. Manning got into the police cruiser and Radford drove away with him.
The next day, Radford’s car was found submerged in a lake. Radford’s body was inside - he had been shot twice with his own revolver. The officer’s summons book was found in the car, and the ticket for Manning’s defective headlight was the last one in it. The murder weapon was found in a barn near Manning’s house. Manning was arrested and charged with kidnapping, armed robbery and murder.
The trial began in 1989. The defense argued that Radford had pulled over another car after arresting Manning, and while he questioned the men inside it, Manning escaped from the police cruiser, made it back to his car, and drove home. The defense also argued that if Manning had killed Radford, he would have been covered in blood; witnesses who saw Manning minutes after the shooting noticed no blood on him.
The jury found Manning guilty and sentenced him to death, but the conviction was overturned in 1991 because the jury had been given inadequate legal instructions. Over the next ten years, Manning was tried four more times. A 1993 trial ended in a mistrial when jurors couldn’t reach a verdict. In 1994, a judge granted prosecutors a change of venue for the third trial, based on excess publicity in the county where the murder took place, and in 1995, Manning was again convicted, but that conviction was overturned in 1997, when the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the change of venue had violated Manning’s constitutional rights. A 1999 trial again ended in a hung jury, but in his fifth and final trial, also in 1999, Manning was acquitted of all charges.
– Alexandra Gross