Courtesy of Krissy Nobile, Mr. Manning’s attorney.

On November 30, 2023, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered that the state’s request to set an execution date for death row prisoner Willie Manning be held until the court rules on a recent petition seeking to bring new evidence of Mr. Manning’s innocence. Mr. Manning’s attorneys had filed a petition at the court on September 29, asking for an opportunity to present recantations from jailhouse informants who testified against Mr. Manning, as well as new expert analysis debunking the unscientific forensic evidence that was used against him at trial. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has admitted that the analysis used in Mr. Manning’s trial was flawed.

Mr. Manning, who is Black, was convicted in 1994 for the murders of two white Mississippi State University students. At his trial, an FBI agent testified that hairs found in one of the victim’s vehicles came from a Black person. The prosecutor referred to that testimony in his closing argument, saying that it implicated Mr. Manning because of his race. The FBI agent also gave ballistics testimony that the FBI said in 2013 was seriously flawed. The prosecution also presented testimony from jailhouse informants who claimed that Mr. Manning had confessed to the crime. Mr. Manning’s recent petition seeks to present recantations from informants, who say they were persuaded by the sheriff’s office to testify against Mr. Manning.

The order from the Mississippi Supreme Court temporarily delays the state’s request for an execution date, which was filed on November 3. It requires the state to respond to Mr. Manning’s petition by December 29, and then allows fifteen days for his attorneys to reply. The court will not set an execution date until it has ruled on the case. “Given the allegations we’ve made and the proof we’ve submitted, we would hope the Court would either grant relief outright or grant an evidentiary hearing where we can present the evidence to a trial judge,” Mr. Manning’s attorney, David Voisin, told the Mississippi Free Press.

In 2015, Mr. Manning was exonerated of an unrelated crime, for which he had also been sentenced to death. 


Lici Beveridge, MS Supreme Court puts hold on set­ting exe­cu­tion date for 1 man. Here’s what hap­pened, Mississippi Clarion Ledger, November 30, 2023; Heather Harrison, Willie Manning Execution Date Decision Delayed Amid DNA Testing Push, Mississippi Free Press, December 5, 2023; Michael McEwen, Q&A: Krissy Nobile, direc­tor of the Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, December 52023.