Maryland made history today as the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line to abolish the death penalty. Maryland becomes the 18th state country wide to end this archaic and inhuman practice. For activists and supporters in Maryland it is time for a celebration of their hard work.
This is another huge step in the right direction. At the same time however, Mississippi is planning to execute a man without testing potentially exculpatory DNA and fingerprint evidence. Willie Manning is on death row for the murder of two college students in 1992, and has maintained his innocence the whole time. Left untested are fingerprints found in the car, and DNA found at the scene of the crime. Last week the Mississippi Supreme Court held that Manning has no right to test the evidence because the absence of the his DNA from the scene of the crime would not exonerate him given the other evidence presented at the trial. This way of looking at the DNA evidence fails to appreciate that if the DNA is not Manning’s, the person who actually committed the murder will forever remain free.
Support for the death penalty is declining among Americans, and support falls even faster in cases without DNA evidence. Cases like Manning’s not only undermine faith in the process, they undermine the justice system as a whole. Since DNA testing became widespread, 18 people have been exonerated after serving time on death row, and 306 people total have been exonerated. Manning may or may not be exonerated by this DNA, but he should never be put to death while doubt still lingers as to whether the DNA is his or not.
Take action by urging Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant to stay Willie Manning’s execution and order DNA testing here.