Miss. Coroners Try to Bring Back Fired Examiner Steven Hayne
Dr. Steven Hayne was removed from the list of approved coroners in Mississippi. Now, coroners there are trying to rewrite the rules to bring him back. Radly Balko reports:
But now a sizable number of Mississippi's elected county coroners are plotting to bring Hayne back by redrawing law-enforcement boundaries to sidestep state law.
The background to Dr. Hayne:
Hayne had come under heavy criticism in the preceding months, including an October 2007 investigation and series of follow-up stories in Reason; the DNA exonerations of two men wrongly convicted of rape and murder due largely to testimony from Hayne and his frequent collaborator, the disgraced bite mark expert Dr. Michael West; and the Mississippi State Supreme Court's dismissal of Hayne's dubious testimony [PDF] in the murder trial of then-13-year-old Tyler Edmonds. Hayne, who is not board-certified in forensic pathology, had been performing 1,200 to 1,800 autopsies per year, several times the maximum number allowed by his field's certifying organization.
One of our prior posts on Hayne is here. Reaction from Innocence Projects: [More...]
Tucker Carrington, director of the Mississippi Innocence Project, says he finds the coroners' move astonishing. "You have all of this energy and effort expended by a group motivated solely by money and selfish expedience to reinstate a status quo that was a national embarrassment, and left a trail of destruction that ruined people's lives," Carrington says. "And this, after you had so many people come together to try to bring some real reform to the system."
The New York Innocence Project responds:
"This is really outrageous," said Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the New York Innocence Project. That organization, along with the Mississippi Innocence Project, worked with local attorneys to win last year's DNA exonerations, and has filed a complaint seeking to revoke Hayne's medical license. Hayne is now suing them for defamation. "Our work has shown that Hayne clearly contributed to at least two wrongful convictions, and that he's given misleading testimony in many others," Ferrero says. "You'd think that would raise concerns among coroners and prosecutors in Mississippi. They don't seem to care."
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