Mississippi's criminal forensics disaster.

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Feb. 20 2008 1:32 PM

The Bite-Marks Men

Mississippi's criminal forensics disaster.

(Continued from Page 1)

Meanwhile, as Hayne continues to do autopsies and testify, defense attorneys in a handful of cases have attempted to impeach him by citing my reporting, as well as the other criticism from Hayne's peers. The courts have dismissed these motions. They also often refuse even to give an indigent defendant funds to hire his own expert to review Hayne's work, leaving Hayne as the only medical expert to testify at trial.

That's what happened in the case of Jeffrey Havard, on death row in Parchman for killing his girlfriend's infant daughter. Before trial, Havard's lawyer asked the court for money to hire an outside expert, citing concerns about Hayne's credibility. The request was denied. After Havard's conviction, his legal team was able to get former Alabama State Medical Examiner Dr. Jim Lauridson to review Hayne's work. Lauridson found it lacking, to say the least. He told me last fall that Havard's case is "a travesty of justice." Yet in a ruling Kafka would not believe, the Mississippi Supreme Court refused to even consider Lauridson's review of Hayne's autopsy. The review was new evidence, the court determined, and should have been introduced at trial.

Advertisement

After the Brewer and Brooks exonerations last week, the Innocence Project's Peter Neufeld called for an investigation into Hayne and West. Even before that investigation happens, Hayne and West should stop testifying or doing autopsies. The state also needs to review every case in which either of these two men has ever testified; such investigations have followed forensic scandals in West Virginia, Oklahoma City, Houston, and other places.

As those other scandals indicate, Mississippi certainly isn't the first state to have problems with its forensics system. The difference is that other jurisdictions have responded with thorough investigations and honest efforts to correct deficiencies and repair damage done. Over the years, Mississippi has had ample such opportunities, and state officials have done nothing. Perhaps more exonerations will force the state to change its bad ways. But thus far, there's no sign of that: In a recent article that ran in Jackson's Clarion-Ledger, Attorney General Hood defended Hayne's integrity and expertise, even as he was exonerating Brewer and Brooks, two men wrongly imprisoned due in part to Hayne's work.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.