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Mississippi high court blocks man's execution

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 6:51 p.m.
The Mississippi Supreme Court blocked the Tuesday, May 7, 2013 execution of death row inmate Willie Jerome Manning, who was convicted in the 1992 slayings of two college students.

PARCHMAN, Miss. — The Mississippi Supreme Court has indefinitely delayed Tuesday's scheduled execution of Willie Jerome Manning amid questions involving evidence in the case — intervening hours before he was set to die for the slayings of two college students.

Manning, who had challenged errors involving evidence analysis, was originally set to receive a lethal injection in the state prison in Parchman. But with mere hours remaining, the high court blocked the execution until it rules further.

Manning was convicted in 1994 in the shooting deaths of two Mississippi State University students, Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller. Their bodies were found in a rural area in December 1992.

The FBI has said in recent days that there were errors in agents' testimony about ballistics tests and hair analysis in the case.

Manning's lawyers had argued in recent filings before the Mississippi Supreme Court that the execution should be blocked based on the Justice Department's disclosures about testimony that it says exceeded the limits of science.

The court ruled 8-1 for a stay. The court had previously split 5-4 in decisions in the case.

An FBI letter, sent late Monday, said there was incorrect testimony related to tests on bullets found in a tree by Manning's house that were compared with bullets found in the victims.

That kind of examination “is not based on absolute certainty but rather a reasonable degree of scientific certainty,” the letter said.

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