published : 2023-11-11

Mississippi AG Urges High Court to Set Execution Dates for Two Murderers on Death Row

Willie Jerome Manning and Robert Simon Jr. Await Execution Indefinitely

An image of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, the key figure behind the push for execution dates. Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch has called upon the state Supreme Court to schedule execution dates for two men on death row.

The motions, filed by Fitch's office on Thursday, requested the court to set executions for Willie Jerome Manning and Robert Simon Jr.

Manning, now 55, was convicted in 1994 for the capital murder of Mississippi State University students Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller in Oktibbeha County.

Simon, 60, along with another man, was found guilty of the 1990 Quitman County slayings of a family of four.

Both Manning and Simon were on the brink of execution over a decade ago, but their sentences were stayed by the courts.

Recently, Manning's defense team, led by Krissy Nobile, director of the Mississippi Office of Capital Post-Conviction Counsel, filed a petition for post-conviction relief.

This petition was based on 'newly discovered evidence and scientific developments' that question Manning's conviction.

Regrettably, the state has yet to respond to this petition or consider the presented evidence.

According to Nobile, there is compelling evidence suggesting Manning's potential innocence, yet the State is rushing towards execution without a thorough investigation.

A photo of Willie Jerome Manning, one of the men awaiting execution indefinitely. Taken with a Nikon D850.

Nobile rightly points out that executions should not be approached with haste; they require careful examination and deliberation.

In 2013, just before Manning's scheduled execution, the U.S. Justice Department acknowledged errors in the FBI agents' testimony regarding ballistics tests and hair analysis in his case.

This acknowledgment prompted Manning's attorneys to urge the Mississippi Supreme Court to halt the lethal injection.

The court voted 8-1 in favor of postponing the execution in order to conduct additional tests on the evidence.

The hope was that DNA testing would establish Manning's innocence, as he has consistently maintained.

Following years of fingerprint analysis and DNA testing, a majority of the state Supreme Court justices in 2022 deemed the results 'allegedly inconclusive.'

Seeking a breakthrough, Manning's legal team sought permission from an Oktibbeha County circuit judge to send the items to a more specialized lab.

Unfortunately, the judge denied the request, a decision that was eventually upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Krissy Nobile raises concerns about the reliability of hair analysis and firearms identification used in Manning's trial.

A capture of Robert Simon Jr., the other inmate on death row. Taken with a Sony Alpha a7 III.

She also reveals that some witnesses, who were previously incarcerated, have since admitted that their testimonies were fabricated in exchange for money and sentence reductions.

Robert Simon Jr., on the other hand, had a near encounter with execution in May 2011.

Just hours away from his scheduled execution, a federal appeals court intervened and ordered a stay based on a mental disability claim.

Eventually, the claim was rejected, leading to the current situation.

Attorney Johnnie E. Walls Jr., listed for Simon, has yet to respond to inquiries.

In separate motions, Attorney General Lynn Fitch has formally requested the Mississippi Supreme Court to set execution dates for both Manning and Simon within the next 30 days.

According to Fitch's motions, there are no legal obstacles remaining, as both individuals have exhausted all state and federal remedies.

As of now, these motions are still pending before the court.