Attorney General Lynn Fitch is asking the Supreme Court to set execution dates for two men on death row.
The Thursday motions are for 55-year-old Willie Jerome Manning, who has been on death row for nearly 30 years, and 60-year-old Robert Simon Jr., who has been there for over 30 years.
Fitch’s office wants the court to set execution dates within the next 30 days.
The state’s most recent execution was last year when Thomas Loden Jr. was put to death a week and a half before Christmas.
Willie Jerome Manning was convicted of shooting Mississippi State University students Tiffany Miller and Jon Steckler in 1994.
Manning has maintained his innocence. After a direct appeal, federal court proceedings, a motion for post-conviction relief and an attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case, the state asked for Manning’s execution date to be reset for May 2013.
That execution was stayed, and Manning was able to file another post-conviction relief petition, including having DNA evidence tested and expert fingerprint analysis performed in the trial court, according to court records.
The attorney general’s office has asked for the stay of execution to be lifted and for the court to dismiss a second successive post-conviction relief motion so that Manning’s execution date can be set.
“Manning’s pending motion is a blatant attempt to delay his lawful execution,” the AG’s motion states.
Manning’s second motion for post-conviction relief, filed in September, argues that the state pursued a weak case with no DNA or physical evidence to link him to the murders.
The Office of Post-Conviction Counsel, which represents Manning, said in a Friday statement that the state hasn’t resonded to the petition or considered the evidence.
“Executions are not the place to act first and ask questions later,” the office said in a statement.
The limited evidence had deteriorated, scientific developments have undermined previous analysis and identification used in the case and key witnesses have admitted that their testimony was fabricated in exchange for favorable treatment from the state, according to the statement.
“The brutal murders of these two young people were tragic. Their families deserve justice,” the office said in its statement. “However, a death sentence based on false forensic evidence and fabricated witness testimony is not justice.”
Manning has already been exonerated in another double murder case.
In 1993, he was accused of killing 90-year old Alberta Jordan and her 60-year-old daughter Emmoline Jimmerson in their Starkville apartment, and convicted for their murders in 1996. Manning was simultaneously fighting convictions in this case and the murders of the MSU students.
The Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a new trial in the case, and the Oktibbeha County District Attorney dismissed the charges, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.
Robert Simon Jr. was convicted with co-defendant Anthony Carr, who is also on death row, of murdering a Quitman County family in 1990: Parents Carl and Bobbie Jo and their children, 12-year-old Gregory and 9-year-old Charlotte.
Simon and Carr broke into the home, shot the family and set the residence on fire. Simon was separately convicted for the murder, kidnapping and sexual battery of Charlotte.
He had been scheduled to be executed in May 2011, but a federal appeals court ordered a stay to evaluate a claim that he was mentally incompetent due to a brain injury from a fall and resulting memory loss, according to court records. The court rejected Simon’s claim.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that those who are mentally disabled can’t be executed, but across the country those with an intellectual disability remain in prison or are put to death due to the action states have taken to define intellectual disability and set requirements, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.