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Willie Manning

Other Mississippi Exonerations
At about 2:15 a.m. on December 11, 1992, Tiffany Miller and her boyfriend, Jon Steckler, both students at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi, were found fatally shot. They were last seen leaving Steckler’s fraternity house between 12:50 and 1 a.m.

Steckler was found by the side of a gravel road. He had been shot in the back of the head and run over by a vehicle. Miller had been dragged from the road into the woods. She was shot twice in the face. Miller’s car was found abandoned not far away the next morning.

On January 18, 1993, the bodies of 90-year-old Alberta Jordan and her 60-year-old daughter, Emmoline Jimmerson, were found in their apartment at Brooksville Gardens in Starkville.

The women had been beaten with an iron and their throats slashed.

Both crimes went unsolved for several months. In the spring of 1993, 24-year-old Willie Manning, who had been previously convicted of burglary and theft, was arrested on charges of grand larceny. While Manning was being held in the Oktibbeha County jail, his cousin, Earl Jordan—who was also an inmate—told police that Manning admitted to him that he and another man named Jesse Lawrence were burglarizing a car at the University when they saw Steckler and Miller. Jordan said Manning told him that they forced the couple into their car and drove off. Jordan told police that after a while, they stopped the car and Lawrence told Manning to get rid of them, so he shot them both.

Manning was charged with two counts of capital murder for the killing of Steckler and Miller. On March 31, 1994—nearly a year later—Manning was charged with two counts of capital murder for the killing of Jordan and Jimmerson.

Manning went to trial for the murders of Miller and Steckler in 1994. Witnesses testified that after the murders, Manning attempted to sell a class ring and a watch that matched the description of Steckler’s ring and watch. Items stolen in a burglary of a car outside Steckler’s fraternity house on the same night as the murders were linked to Manning as well. Jordan testified that Manning had confessed to him. Manning contended he was in a nightclub from 9:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. on the night of the murders.

Manning was convicted by a jury in November 1994 and was sentenced to death.

Manning went to trial in July 1996 for the murders of Jordan and Jimmerson. The chief witness against him was Kevin Lucious, who told the jury that he, his girlfriend and their baby were living in an apartment that was adjacent to the victims’ apartment. Lucious testified that on the day of the murders, he saw Manning at the apartment building and that Manning had been drinking beer.

Lucious told the jury that Manning said he needed money. Lucious said he saw Manning go into the apartment where the women lived and not come out. A couple of weeks later, Lucious said he saw Manning in a nightclub and that Manning said that if he had known “they” only had 12 dollars, he would not have done anything to “them.” When Manning’s brother, Marshon, told Manning to stop talking, Manning said he would “kill him, too,” Lucious testified.

Lucious admitted that he was facing two murder charges in another state when he came forward and implicated Manning in the murders. Lucious was later sentenced to life in prison for those murders.

Lucious’s girlfriend, Likeesha Harris, testified that she, Lucious and their baby lived in the apartment next to the apartment where Jordan and Jimmerson lived.

On July 24, 1996, the jury convicted Manning of two counts of capital murder for the killings of Jordan and Jimmerson, and he was sentenced to death a second time.

Manning’s appeals were rejected.

In May 2013, Manning was four hours from execution when the Mississippi Supreme Court granted a stay of execution to allow the defense to seek DNA testing of a hair found in Miller’s car. At Manning’s trial, an FBI agent testified that the hair came from a black person. Miller and Steckler were white.

Meanwhile, Manning was seeking to overturn the convictions for the murders of Jordan and Jimmerson. Lucious and Harris had both recanted their trial testimony. Lucious said he falsely implicated Manning because he was afraid he would be charged with the murders. Lucious denied that Manning ever said anything about being involved in the murders. He said he was told that if he implicated Manning, he would not face the death penalty for the murders he was charged with in Missouri.

Harris said police threatened to take her child from her unless she implicated Manning.

In addition, Manning’s lawyers had discovered that the police had failed to disclose to the prosecution—and as a result, to Manning’s trial lawyers as well—that a canvas of the apartment building where Jordan and Jimmerson lived showed that Lucious and Harris did not live in the building at the time of the crime—let alone in the apartment next to the victims.

Two weeks after Manning was granted a stay of execution in the Miller-Steckler case, a judge denied Manning’s motion for a new trial in the Jordan-Jimmerson case.

But in February 2015, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned that decision and ordered a new trial for Manning in the Jordan-Jimmerson case. “Any attorney worth his salt would salivate at impeaching the State’s key witness” with the evidence that Lucious and Harris were not living in the building, the court held.

On April 20, 2015, the Oktibbeha County District Attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charges relating to the Jordan-Jimmerson murders.

Manning remains on Mississippi’s Death Row for the Miller-Steckler murders as the physical evidence in that case was still undergoing DNA testing as of April 2015.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/29/2015
State:Mississippi
County:Oktibbeha
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1993
Convicted:1996
Exonerated:2015
Sentence:Death
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:24
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No