Eddie Lee Howard: Mississippi's Next Exoneration?

Now that Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks have been freed, the Innocence Project is calling for a criminal investigation into Dr. Michael West. Innocence Project Co-DirectorPeter Neufeld is asking that every case in which West has ever testified be reviewed. The linked article notes that there are 20 or more Mississippians in prison right now due at least in part to West's testimony.

West still stands by bitemark nonsense in the Brewer and Brooks cases. He's now saying that even if Brooks and Brewer did not commit the two murders a third man has since confessed to committing, his testimony wasn't incorrect: Brewer and Brooks still bit those little girls. To believe West, you'd have to believe that in two cases that occurred at about the same time, two men living just miles apart coincidentally each repeatedly bit a little girl in their care just hours before a third man unknown to either of them abducted, raped, and killed said little girls.

Alternately, you could believe that Dr. West is a quack who says whatever prosecutors tell him to.

The next case involving the unholy triumvirate of West, Hayne, and District Attorney Forrest Allgood that may come to be embarrass Mississippi is that of Eddie Lee Howard, currently on death row in Parchman Penitentiary for the gruesome murder of an 82-year-old woman named Georgia Kemp. The assailant stabbed Kemp to death, then set her house on fire and left her to burn. Dr. Hayne testified at trial that Kemp was also raped, though no semen or second-party blood or pubic hair showed up in the rape kit. Hayne did not find any bite marks on his initial examination. The victim was then buried.

In a now-familiar pattern, Hayne then brought his collaborator Dr. West onto the case. Three days later, the police detained Howard without a warrant, then immediately took him to Dr. West's dental practice, where West took an impression of Howard's teeth. Police then exhumed the victim, at which point West once again claimed to find bite marks no one else could see. He then noted there were similarities between Mr. Howard's dental impression and the bite marks he said he'd found on the burned body.

There was no biological evidence linking Howard to the crime scene. The sole evidence against him was West's testimony and the testimony of a police investigator who says Howard basically confessed to him, though the investigator never asked Howard to sign a statement of confession, nor is there any recording of it.

Eddie Lee Howard clearly has some psychological problems. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted him a new trial in 1997 after finding the trial court improperly allowed Howard, who is mentally ill, to represent himself in his own murder trial. Howard was convicted in the second trial, too. In 2006, the Mississippi State Supreme Court upheld the second conviction, and explicitly refused to throw out Dr. West's testimony. Remarkably, this was well after West's credibility had been thoroughly dismantled in the national media, after DNA proved he'd been wrong in the Kennedy Brewer case, and after he'd been thrown out of several professional organizations.

Bizarrely, the court determined that it was Howard's fault his attorney didn't call an expert witness to rebut West's testimony but that, at the same time, the fact that his attorney neglected to do so didn't amount to ineffective assistance of counsel. After acknowledging that Howard's new lawyers filed piles and piles of affidavits from experts attesting to Dr. West's quackery, the court awkwardly came to this astonishing conclusion:

Just because Dr. West has been wrong a lot, does not mean, without something more, that he was wrong here.

If Howard is cleared, it will be the fourth (that I know of) Mississippi murder exoneration involving District Attorney Forrest Allgood. Three of those people were sentenced to death. It will be the third (that I know of) involving Dr. Hayne and Dr. West. I'm investigating several more. The Innocence Project chapters in Mississippi and New York are looking at hundreds.

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  • ||

    Forrest Allgood, Dr. Hayne and Dr. West have no shame. There is not a conscience among them. I want them all in prison. For life. Sic 'em, Radley!

  • ||

    What a disgrace. The people of Mississippi should be outraged that such injustices continue to happen. For me this is the single biggest reason to abolish the death penalty. You can't bring people back from the dead.

  • Ryan||

    Radley, I just want you to know - your reporting has permanently altered my thinking, and I know I am one of a great many. Thank you, and please be continue to be tireless. You are making a difference, you are saving lives. Thank you.

  • the innominate one||

    Alternately, you could believe that Dr. West is a quack who makes shit up. I know which theory my money's on.

    darn that principle of parsimony!

    Good work on all this, Radley. There aren't thanks enough for your work. I'd recommend you for a Presidential Medal of Freedom, but that might be considered an insult.

    Adam872: excellent point.

  • the innominate one||

    forgot to say: apparently, West, Hayne, and Allgood are immoral bastards. They make me hope there is a just god ruling the universe.

  • x,y||

    I finally got around to ordering my Agitator t-shirt. I've turned a few colleagues onto your work Radley. Keep it up.

  • Someone Who Doesn\'t Want to L||

    When are these fake-doctor f*cks going to prison?

  • ||

    The agnostic in me refuses to admit the possibility of the existance of Hell.

    I sincerely hope I'm wrong. These fucks need a couple of eternities of excruciating suffering, just as a good start.

  • ||

    I'll join the chorus praising this series and the rest of Radley Balko's work. Truly journalism in the best tradition of the 4th estate. J sub D knows the best we can probably hope for is new trials for the accused in these cases. Some of them may actually have done it despite the antics of the back-country mortician. But are charges against West and the others likely? If there is hard evidence that he knowingly falsified evidence and testimony he could be charged with perjury and various other felonies. Hayne possibly testifies against West and gets off easy and the AG comes out clean on the entire affair.

    Not to say they won't wind up in the 7th circle but they won't because there isn't one. It's a great achievement for reason and the innocence project just to get some new trials for the D's.

  • miche||

    Having grown up southern, I used to believe that the death penalty, in certain situations, was right. Today, I think it should never be used except in life protecting events requiring split second decisions.

    To wrongly deprive a man of liberty is bad enough but there may be a way to compensate the loss. To wrongly deprive a man of life is unforgivable.

  • ||

    If a police officer sees a person about to smash the head of another person with a hammer and the officer fires her weapon and kills the hammer-wielding guy -- that's a "good shoot" for the cop but it sure is not imposition of the death penalty. There has to be judicial process before the state can impose the death penalty -- says so in the Constitution. Anyway, liberaltarian metrosexual Kaganspawn favors the death penalty in some circumstances.

    The point that the criminal justice system is flawed to varying degrees in different parts of the country suggests no death penalty because the death penalty sentence once imposed cannot be reversed. This argument is compelling, but so can be DNA evidence that proves the crime was done by the accused. What percentage of death row inmates would have to be guilty to a scientific certainty of the most horrific crimes before the rate of error was acceptable?

    Do the H & R commenters think it is a statist position not to oppose the death penalty?

  • Dave B.||

    Kangaspawn - since when does DNA prove who committed a crime? Given the use of people like Howard and Hayne, you can't even be sure that they've been administered accurately.

    From what I recall, the death penalty costs more money than life imprisonment and doesn't reduce crime, so there's really no logical reason to ever use it. I'm pretty sure that the number of death row inmates guilty to a scientific certainty is negligible anyway, though.

    I don't know how most other people feel, but I'd say that giving the state the power to commit cold-blooded murder is a fairly statist position, regardless of the hoops it has to jump through first.

  • VM||

    Good work, Radley! Thank you for your efforts!

  • Episiarch||

    If you think the death penalty is appropriate in certain cases, just remember who is handling the trial, the evidence, and the execution: the same type of people who run the DMV.

    The government is far too incompetent and filled with petty tyrants to be allowed to kill anyone.

  • Hound of Hell||

    The agnostic in me refuses to admit the possibility of the existance of Hell.

    By definition, the agnostic in you doesn't know jack.

  • Jack, the Hound of Hell||

    That was me.

  • ||

    The agnostic in me refuses to deny the existence of Hell. I seriously doubt it, though.

    If we are going to accept any decisions made by our courts, why rule out the death penalty as a just sentence? If we think its acceptable to imprison someone for life, is there much difference in sentencing them to death for the same crime? I think the question we should be asking ourselves is can we ever trust the state to provide justice in every case? If we cannot, how to we stand for life imprisonment? It is also a heinous punishment if the accused never committed the crime.

    I don't have a solution to the inefficiency or tyrrany of the criminal justice system, even if it weren't operated by the state. Radley is proving that these same men could not be trusted even if they weren't state operatives, because they are just trying to win the case and incriminate the first potential perp they find.

  • Josiah Johnson||

    I think the point is that if you put them in jail for 15 years you can still let them out if they are innocent and they can try to collect some sort of reparations.

    If someone is dead there is nothing that can be done to even begin to make it right.

  • ||

    I am opposed to the death penalty, but I could suspend that opposition in the case of District Attorney Allgood.

    I never formulated an explicitly anti-statist reason to oppose the death penalty. I simply don't believe the government should be in the business of revenge killings. Even in the unlikely event that they are able to get the facts straight.

  • ||


    Just because Dr. West has been wrong a lot, does not mean, without something more, that he was wrong here.



    However, that is normally the way the smart money bets.

    One would presume that, to qualify as an expert witness, one must have a proven record of accuracy. I guess I´ll never make it to the Mississippi Supreme Court bench.


    Side note:

    Nick & Episiarch: I´m in Andalucia. Specifically, in Conil de la Frontera. Tomorrow I go to Arcos de la Frontera for two weeks of riding lessons.

    My posts are going to be few and come in short bursts while I´m here. It´s 3 Euros/hour for internet time here in Conil. Sevilla was only 1 Euro/hour. I have no idea what they´ll charge in Arcos.

  • Episiarch||

    Wow, you're way down south. How hot is it? I guess not too hot because it's winter.

  • ||

    I'll join the chorus praising this series and the rest of Radley Balko's work.

    Ditto that.

    The government is far too incompetent and filled with petty tyrants to be allowed to kill anyone.

    I'm finding it harder and harder to resist this conclusion.

  • ||

    It´s about 65 farenheit.

    Gotta go now. The shop is closing up.

  • ||

    Alternately, you could believe that Dr. West is a quack who makes shit up. I know which theory my money's on.

    Balko FTW, always.

  • ||

    "I never formulated an explicitly anti-statist reason to oppose the death penalty. I simply don't believe the government should be in the business of revenge killings. Even in the unlikely event that they are able to get the facts straight."

    That's ok; the free market will step in and fill the void.

    Government won't kill? Hitmen will flourish.

    Isn't it the libertarian argument that drugs should be legalized, since really the war on drugs is an unending waste of money and resources?

    Revenge is no different than drugs; it is an aspect of humanity which cannot be legislated out of existence. Right now government has a monopoly on "revenge" or more precisely retribution.

    Do you think the need and desire for it will just go away if you ban it?

    Sometimes I think libertarians don't pay attention to their own arguments.

  • Shannon Love||

    The Mississippi justice system broken on many levels. While not on the same level of injustice, torts in Mississippi are a notorious nightmare wherein judges allow nutjob "experts" to testify about highly technical matters to rural juries peopled with individuals without a high school degree. I think that Mississippi has a systemic problem with cronyism in all its public and private institutions so bad that it makes the state function like a pre-industrial society.

    Even though I support the death penalty, I agree Radley Balko has done stellar work in this area in the manner of the finest ideals of American journalism. I hope he receives the recognition he deserves and goes down in history as the first great reporter of the 20th century.

  • Michael Ejercito||


    To wrongly deprive a man of liberty is bad enough but there may be a way to compensate the loss. To wrongly deprive a man of life is unforgivable.


    So then war is unforgivable?

  • Michael Ejercito||


    I never formulated an explicitly anti-statist reason to oppose the death penalty. I simply don't believe the government should be in the business of revenge killings. Even in the unlikely event that they are able to get the facts straight.


    Lynch mobs are much worse than the government.

  • ||

    Isn't it the libertarian argument that drugs should be legalized, since really the war on drugs is an unending waste of money and resources?

    Well no, not exactly. Most libertarians would agree that the WOD is indeed "an unending waste of money and resources". The libertarian argument against prohibition is, Doing drugs is my right and none of the governments business to begin with.

    You do not have a right to revenge. Enacting revenge violates another persons rights (especially by killing them). Protecting the rights of every person is the (sole) purpose for which government is legitimately enacted.

    It doesn't matter how popular revenge is. It's a violation of someone's rights and therefore illegal. The government has an obligation to prosecute those who take justice into their own hands. How frequently or justified people are in doing so, is irrelevant.

  • ||

    I guess if you're going to take riding lessons for two weeks, it should be in Andalucia where the horses are presumably spectacular.

  • Michael Ejercito||


    It doesn't matter how popular revenge is. It's a violation of someone's rights and therefore illegal. The government has an obligation to prosecute those who take justice into their own hands. How frequently or justified people are in doing so, is irrelevant.


    This is true.

    Of course, if the government is prevented from administering justice, or routinely violates its own laws in an illusion of administering justice...

  • submandave||

    "The point that the criminal justice system is flawed to varying degrees in different parts of the country suggests no death penalty because the death penalty sentence once imposed cannot be reversed."

    And explain to me, please, exactly how releasing an innocent man from prison after 20 years or so is "reversing" the improperly applied punishment. When an innocent is punished it almost always cannot be reversed. This, however, does not argue against imposing punishment on those found guilty. I agree that there should be great and transparent oversight and stringent requirements placed upon imposition of the death penalty, but I also believe that it has an appropriate in the ideal of "justice."

    I hope the work Radly et. al. do to expose such grave injustice help to refine the system to better limit capital punishment to those cases in which it is more commonly understood to be appropriate.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    It occurred to me.

    None of the people in the capital punishment abolitionist movement have proposed sentencing murderers and spies and traitors to lifelong, drug-induced, drug-maintained comas for life as an alternative punishment, even with recent advances of medical technology. While lifelong comas were not feasible in ancient Greece, it will be feasible in a few years, if not already.

    So why has not any of the millions of people opposed to capital punishment around the world ever suggested this idea? Maybe it is not the capital part that they are opposed to, but the punishment part.

  • ||

    None of the people in the capital punishment abolitionist movement have proposed sentencing murderers and spies and traitors to lifelong, drug-induced, drug-maintained comas for life

    Is this surprising to you? What on earth would such a thing accomplish?

    Once upon a time, governments engaged in public, and quite often spectacularly gruesome, executions. Were these executions an effective deterrent to anyone other than the victim?

  • ||

    I am in favor of the least expensive form of punishment. In other words, I am in favor of the victim or their family handling the responsibility of punishing the criminal in whatever fashion they desire, especially if it leaves me (the taxpayer) out of it.

    I imagine it would result in lots of beatings. So be it.

  • Dave W.||

    The agnostic in me refuses to admit the possibility of the existance of Hell.

  • Dave W.||

    The agnostic in me refuses to admit the possibility of the existance of Hell.

    1. First of all, like Hound Of Hell sed, it is only the atheist in you who is denying things.

    2. This whole situation points out kind of a fundamental flaw in atheist thinking. At least in my experience, when atheists are asked why they have any ethics at al, the answer seems to be something along the lines of people having a nicer society or pleasanter lives. They attach some kind of significance to this happiness or pleasantness that I would characterize as "metaphysical," but they (being atheists) usually decline to characterize at all -- they just kind of say that everybody kind of knows and agrees that happiness and pleasantness are good and there is a concensus and ethics are based on that. The thing is, in a case like this, the convicts lives are not necessarily worse in prison than out (or they would be in prison anyway), and the lives of everybody else improves if "undesirables" are put away quickly and with minimal expense. Let me be clear, not being an atheist, I think it is immoral (unChristian even) to lock up an innocent man on a false pretext. But with atheists, at least ones honest to their principles, it seems like you would lock up whomsoever will most increase (or least decrease) aggregate happiness. Which is exactly the approach these "bad" prosecutors in the Deep South seem to take (even though they are probably not openly atheist).

  • ||

    Guys, you're putting way too much into a throw-away line.

    I'm an agnostic, more of an apathetic atheist, for lack of a more precise term. Since I don't follow any faith, I don't believe in any kind of afterlife. However, I really don't care if there is or isn't a Hell or Heaven, beyond literary merit.

    Really, the important thing here is that these 3 should suffer biblical-level agony for their complete indifference to how they ruin people's lives in order to advance their careers. Is that too much to ask?

  • thoreau||

    I'll be JW's foil and say that Radley is doing God's work.

    :)

  • M||

    Although - or is it because? - I'm a Christian, I can't help wishing that God would also do Radley's work.

    * Sigh. *

  • Dave B.||

    But with atheists, at least ones honest to their principles, it seems like you would lock up whomsoever will most increase (or least decrease) aggregate happiness.

    Ooh, can I play too? What's an equivalently silly and disingenuous statement...

    "Any deist honest to their principles would immediately kill any accused criminal, and allow God to sort out guilt or innocence in the following eternity."

    Or how about "Any deist honest to their principles would abolish the justice system, since God can ensure justice without our help."

  • ||

    Dave W., I think you are falsely generalizing atheists. I think most atheists and agnostics have a libertarian position that you can do whetever you want as long as you don't harm others. It doesn't suppose happiness or pleasantness as you suggest in your secodn point.

    One does not need God to define what harm is. If you punch me, that's harm, no matter what the Bible says. In fact, there are parts of the bible, much of it actually, that allows what we today would call harm. Selling your daughter into slavery would be one example. Atheists and agnostics tend to reject organized religion's rules because they don't believe in the source, God.

    The only thing that makes me an agnostic instead of an atheist is because I can't rule out the existence of a higher power, just like Christians, Muslims, etc can't prove their God is the correct manifestation of that higher power. Atheists basically profess to "know" there is no god. They, too, cannot prove it.

  • miche||

    So then war is unforgivable?



    Depends on whether military service is voluntary or not. I tend to agree with Smedley Butler on what war is, so yes, I think that most war is unforgivable.

  • ||

    The defensive side of the war is not unforgivable, if the defense force is voluntary. The agressor is probably unforgivable.

    Then, once we get into a position where we are safely defended, it gets fuzzy as we exert additional force to prevent further casualties or chance of future attacks, such as dropping the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We were drawn into the war because we wanted to defend ourselves, but those bombs were clearly dropped for the purpose of ending what could have drawn on longer.

    One could argue it was part of defense as well as a pre-emptive scare tactic so everyone knew not to fuck with us. Of course, then we decided to fuck with others going forward and lost any moral high ground we held. Didn't take too long, did it?

  • It\'s not what you think it is||

    Dave B., if you wish, you can learn what deism is, even from Wikipedia.

  • ||

    thoreau--Does this mean that Radley has +5 smiting power?

  • Michael Ejercito||


    Is this surprising to you? What on earth would such a thing accomplish?


    Putting them to sleep where they will not harm anyone at all.

  • ||

    What astonishes me the most is that the Mississippi Supreme Court feels some need to defend these guys and their "shinanigans". WHY? You would think they would want to uphold the highest standards in their powerful positions. Why do they want to wallow in the muck along with these "crooks"? I just don't get it. I'm helping defend a boy right now, who had Dr. Hayne as the only expert witness who failed to test brain tissue even though it was a self defense claim of a much bigger, stronger, man in a rage with reported mental illness attacking the boy. The family had reported mental illness and Alzheimer's, and violent outbursts. I guess "Dr" Hayne, accidentally overlooked that important piece of the puzzle. Even if it wasn't tested at that time, it should have been perserved due to the nature of charges against the child and based on what the family was saying. And who was there to make sure it was done? NO ONE. And a child is sentenced to die in prison.

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