Michael Manning

Monroe County, Pennsylvania
Date of Alleged Crime:  June 16, 1997

Michael Manning was convicted of the third-degree murder of Harry Burley Jr.  Burley, 30, was fatally stabbed at a Sunoco gas station on Route 611 in Scotrun.  Burley was the boyfriend of Manning's stepsister.  On Route 611 Burley and his friend Tyrone Bass, 30, were behind Manning in Bass's car, and after Manning, then age 27, stopped for gas at the Sunoco, Bass and Burley pulled in behind him.  At trial, witnesses disputed events, but apparently Burley and Manning wrestled and punched each other for nearly two minutes.

The prosecution portrayed Manning as the aggressor, allegedly chasing Burley around Bass's car despite the fact that Bass and Burley followed Manning into the gas station.  The prosecution also alleged that Manning produced a knife and was chasing Burley with it before stabbing him.  Manning claimed that Burley produced the knife and that Burley used it to slash at him.  Manning had cuts on his left hand that he said were from warding off the Burley's slashes.  He said he managed to take possession of the knife, but he does not recall ever stabbing Burley with it.  He said he drove off unaware that Burley was fatally wounded.

The prosecution and its witnesses appeared to withhold two pieces of evidence: what Bass saw and who held the knife.  Despite knowing that there was going to be some altercation, Bass claimed not to have witnessed much of the fight, and instead said he put his car seat back and turned up the car stereo.  One might presume that there was improper behavior on Burley's part that Bass did not want to reveal.  Secondly, the prosecution found fingerprints on the knife handle, but refused to determine who the prints belonged to, other than acknowledging that they did not belong to Manning.  The prosecution thus left open the possibility that they belonged to Burley and that Burley had initiated a knife attack on Manning.

Manning did not seem entirely truthful in claiming ignorance about how Burley was stabbed, but the worst case, and most plausible scenario is that Manning acted in self-defense and stabbed Burley.  Self-defense is allowed under the law and is not considered murder.  Manning was sentenced to 12 to 30 years in prison.  In 2002, an appeals court overturned Manning's conviction because the prosecutor made a prejudicial statement during his closing argument.  In 2004 it was reported that Manning pleaded guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge that carried a four to eight year sentence.  Since Manning had already served more than the minimum four years, he was placed on parole.  [7/07]

References:  Manning Website, Patrick CrusadeScrewed Central

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Eastern Pennsylvania Cases, Self-Defense Cases