Monroe Dispatch - No Struggle, No Progress

Manning's 40 Years - Freedom's High Cost


Gerald Manning did what few of us could do, and still be able to walk, however, as of June 18, 2018, Manning is a free man. Manning spent forty long years in Angola, Louisiana's notorious prison for a crime that had injustice and racism written all over it. A young woman lost her life, and Manning was used as the scapegoat to make sure that justice was served. Now, forty years later, Manning is the only one who did not receive justice. The nightmare and miscarriage of justice for Manning began in 1977 when Vonda Harris was found naked and murdered at the hands of an unknown assailant that shook the city and baffled law authorities.

Initially, there were no suspects to be found that could be linked to Harris' death. According to media accounts at that time, Manning who was 18 years old, never knew Harris in any kind of way. However, that didn't prevent the Monroe Police Department from "finding" a way to implicate Manning because of fear and pressure from the community. We have found that in situations like these, an innocent person winds up paying a terrible price.

What makes this situation even worse is that there was not anything such as evidence that pointed the finger to Manning. It was said that there were witnesses who could vouch for Manning not being anywhere near the crime scene. But this was forty years ago where blacks in the South were not seen as reliable witnesses or jurors. A zealous prosecutor named John Harrison, who was once a judge himself, should have known not to try a man with flimsy or no concrete evidence, along with District Attorney Johnny Carl Parkerson, but went ahead anyway. A conviction was all that mattered. Manning would have to surrender 40 years of his life for a crime that is now believed, that he did not commit.

Project Innocence is an organization that has only one purpose. They comb through thousands of cases each year searching for "the one" that could potentially free a person from an obvious bias trial. The organization uses the technology of DNA science to conclusively prove a person's innocence. When current Ouachita Parish District Attorney Steve Tew was presented with fresh evidence using DNA technology that had a high probability of exonerating Manning, he begin legal procedures that would lead to Manning's freedom. Manning appeared in Fourth District Court after having a successful post-conviction hearing back in April to answer questions put forth to him by Judge Rambo. The judge asked him if he fully understood the questions, and wanted to know if he agreed with them. Manning would be a free man on the conditions that he would have no redress through the justice system, as there would be no admission of impropriety on the prosecutors' side. Manning was charged and sentenced on multiple accounts to hard labor and at least ten years on each count. To their credit, Harris' family believed all along that Manning was innocent, as it was also a black detective on the police department who voiced complaints of a "witch hunt" investigation against Manning, that led to his removal from the case.

The question now becomes-how can a man recover 40 years of his life. You cannot. This is another stain on the justice system that will not wash away. Everyone is required to repent when they do something wrong if they want to be right with God. Far too often, those who try us by the law do not seem to be in a hurry to repent for the wrong that they do to us, using the law. Sounds a little like Romans 13. Remember, the world is watching. So is God.


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