At Manning’s trial, FBI expert Chester E. Blythe testified that hair from an African American had been found in Miller’s car.
Late Saturday, John Crabb Jr., special counsel to the Justice Department, told lawyers in the case for the first time that Blythe’s testimony “exceeded the limits of the science.”
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The FBI could only validly claim that a hair shared traits in common with a racial group, but could not place a probability on it, according to Crabb and a May 4 statement by the FBI laboratory.
On Thursday, Crabb notified the parties that Blythe also gave invalid, overstated testimony when he said he could match a crime-scene hair to an individual with “a relatively high degree of certainty.”
The Mississippi Supreme Court’s only black jurist, Associate Justice Leslie D. King, said in writing the minority dissent in Manning’s appeal that prosecutors emphasized Blythe’s testimony for prejudicial reasons, and improperly excluded potential black jurors.
“It is clear that the sole purpose in presenting the hair evidence was to have the jury conclude (1) hair from an African American was found in the car . . . (2) Manning is an African American, (3) therefore, Manning killed Miller and Steckler,” King wrote.
King also faulted prosecutors for excluding several black people from the jury.
In a separate dissent joined by the four judges, Associate Justice James W. Kitchens noted that state laws took effect only in 2009 that cleared the way for post-conviction DNA testing, recognizing advances in testing and expanded DNA and fingerprint offender databases.
Manning’s defense has cited several problems with his conviction, seeking the retest of a rape kit, fingernail scrapings, hairs and fingerprints. His lawyers also have noted that the jailhouse informant recanted his story, and that Manning’s cousin has given different accounts.
Manning was convicted and sentenced to death separately for killing two elderly women in their apartment in Starkville in 1993. That sentence remains on appeal.