Prologue: The Perfect Patsy

In June of 2018, Gerald Manning was released from Angola Prison after being incarcerated for 41 years for crimes he did not commit. Court documents showed that in 1977, the police department of Monroe, Louisiana, In an effort to clear its list of unsolved crimes, conveniently dumped most of its unsolved rape and murder cases on Manning, a man with a mental disorder that caused him to agree with authority figures and even confess to crimes he did not commit.     

Manning, who was 17 years old at the time, gave the police multiple confessions, all of which proved untrue. Forty-two people were given lie detector tests, and 41 of them were dismissed. Manning passed like the others, but he was charged even though there was no evidence and he passed the lie detector test. An alleged co-conspirator named in one of Manning’s bogus confessions of rape and murder was released and never spent a day in jail; it was obvious he had nothing to do with the case in spite of being named in Manning’s flawed confession.

There was no evidence connecting Manning to the case except his bogus confessions: No finger prints, DNA, fiber Evidence, footprints, or witnesses. Yet, the police, eager to clear their books, and armed with the confessions of a black teenager who had no idea what he was doing, charged him, a jury convicted him, and a judge sentenced him to consecutive prison sentences that would ultimately end with a life sentence with parole eligibility after he had been imprisoned for 80 years. In 2018, the Innocence Project of New Orleans uncovered DNA evidence on the murder weapon that effectively excluded Manning as the murderer. Two months later, 41 years after being locked up, he walked out of prison, 59 years old, with no money and most of his life spent behind bars. 

This story is based on events related to his imprisonment and ultimate release, pieced together from court records, newspaper accounts, and interviews.

There is an unknown assailant who raped and killed Vonda Lanell Harris. He has escaped prosecution for over four decades. He or his relatives may be reading these pages.

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