The Coroners Revolt

Mississippi coroners attempt to defy a ban on disgraced medical examiner Steven Hayne

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When forensics scandals have hit other states, public officials have generally expressed some embarrassment, followed by promises to both investigate the extent of the damage and to implement reforms to prevent similar incidents in the future. The dominant sentiment among Mississippi officials the last few years hasn't been embarrassment, but defiance. As more and more has come to light about the harm Hayne may have inflicted on the state's criminal and civil justice systems, the state has done only the minimum required to offset the mounting pressure. Now, coroners and prosecutors are trying to undo even that.

"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."

Radley Balko is a senior editor for Reason.

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