Yesterday, with hours to spare, the Mississippi Supreme Court stayed the execution of Willie Manning by a vote of 8-1. The stay was granted based on letters from the Department of Justice casting doubt on the scientific value of testimony from FBI experts at the trial almost 20 years ago.
The lone dissenter, Justice Mike Randolph, outlined his interest in putting someone to death immediately over the objections of the Department of Justice and its FBI experts. The decision reads like satire, making the case for the stay stronger than any majority opinion could. Oh, and then there’s some conspiracy rantings about the Obama Administration because, you know, Mississippi…
Willie Manning was convicted of the December 1992 murder of Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller. The conviction rested on the fact that Manning was found with items stolen from the scene of the crime and speculative ballistics and forensic testimony from FBI experts. With the march of scientific advancement, the agency now doubts itself.
The FBI did not repudiate the testimony, but raised enough questions that it offered to conduct modern DNA tests — unavailable at the original trial — if the Mississippi Supreme Court granted a stay. Most of the justices found this reasonable and ordered the State to temporarily stand down.
Justice Mike Randolph disagreed. First, Justice Randolph wasn’t so sure who these “F-B-I” people are:
Letters submitted by petitioner from the Department of Justice have unsigned reports attached from a Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis Review Team Laboratory Division (FBI), without identifying the authority, credentials, qualifications, name, or title of any member of the team. The letters challenge not only former FBI experts in hair, but also ballistics. Our established law and justice require more.
As for qualifications, they were all FBI agents in the Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis Review Team Laboratory Division, which sounds like a qualification in and of itself. This wasn’t coming from the X-Files; the very testimony Randolph trusts in this case came from the same group, just 20 years earlier. Read in context, Justice Randolph’s unwavering commitment to form over substance is Kafka-esque.
But the microscopic hair analysis, the only physical evidence linking Manning to the crime, was so spot-on at the original trial:
In his federal habeas action, the same issues were raised and rejected. Former United States District Court Judge Allen Pepper (now deceased) wrote that “[a]t trial expert testimony was given only that the hair found in Miller’s car exhibited characteristics associated with the African-Americans.” Manning v. Epps, 2008 WL 4516386 (N.D. Miss 2008). Judge Pepper continued, “[e]ven if DNA testing could conclusively prove that it was not Petitioner’s hair that was found in the vehicle, those results would not impeach the testimony given at trial, much less exonerated Petitioner.”
The only physical evidence they had was hair that “kinda looked like a black guy’s?” That really narrows it down. Manning may well have committed the crime, but if the only physical evidence is a hair sample, then, contrary to the analysis of the late Judge Pepper, “if DNA testing could conclusively prove that it was not Petitioner’s hair,” it would cripple the case against Manning. It’s not an academic endeavor, it’s the only physical evidence. Justice Randolph rejects the DNA argument because the matter was fully litigated… solely on the grounds that Judge Pepper heard and ignored the issue. Justice Randolph’s drafting puts a floodlight on his own circular reasoning.
But the best is saved for last. I wonder why Justice Randolph doesn’t trust the DOJ:
Although the connectivity and expediency by which this review was accomplished is mind boggling, I should not be surprised, given that the families of victims of the clandestine ‘Fast and Furious’ gun running operation can’t get the Department of Justice to identify the decision makers (whose actions resulted in the death of a border agent and many others) after years of inquiry, and that this is the same Department of Justice that grants and enforces Miranda warnings to foreign enemy combatants.
Because the DOJ is covering up “Fast and Furious” and aiding and abetting terrorists. Duh. And sticking it to agencies that report to Comrade Obama clearly outweighs taking the time to apply so-called “science” to this case.
Read the whole opinion on the next page….