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On Death Row for the Wrong Hair

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(The Daily Beast) – For 21 years, death row inmate Willie Jerome Manning has waited for a DNA test to prove his innocence. In 1994, he was convicted in the murder of two white Mississippi State University students, who were kidnapped outside a frat house and later found shot in the head.

Manning was a black man facing an all-white Southern jury, and the cards were already stacked against him. The prosecutor’s case relied on testimony from a jailhouse snitch and a woman who wanted to see her own criminal charges disappear—and an FBI expert who said a hair sample linked Manning to the crime. Manning was convicted and sentenced to death.

But on May 7, 2013, he got an 11th-hour stay of his execution. The reprieve came days after the Department of Justice delivered letters calling the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s microscopic hair comparison analysis flawed.

“We have determined that the microscopic hair comparison analysis … included statements that exceeded the limits of science and was, therefore, invalid,” read one DOJ letter to Oktibbeha County District Attorney Deforest Allgood.

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