A reader sends the following exchange, taken from a murder trial in Hattiesburg, Mississippi this week. A defense lawyer is in the process of mounting a challenge to the prosecutor's attempt to use embattled Mississippi medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne as an expert witness.
“Is board certification required to be a forensic pathologist?” she asked.
“No,” he replied.
“What do you have to do to be a forensic pathologist?” Polk-Payton said.
“You have to (have) forensic training,” Hayne responded.
Hayne testified Tuesday that he performs between 1,500 and 1,600 autopsies a year. He said a suggested professional standard is 250 autopsies a year.
“About how many hours a day do you think you work?” Polk-Payton asked.
“I usually start work at about 8:15 in the morning,” Hayne answered. “Last night I got to bed at actually 2:30 this morning.”
Hayne testified that he only sleeps 3 1/2 to four hours a night, as a result of his work schedule.
“I don’t like to sleep. That’s the way I am, some people need sleep, some don’t - I don’t need it,” Hayne, 66, said.
Moments later, Forrest County Circuit Judge Bob Helfrich interjected.
“Dr. Hayne will be accepted by this court as an expert witness,” Helfrich said.
And so it goes. I’m told that over the last 6-8 months, defense attorneys across the state are have been challenging Hayne with questions like these. Thus far, not a single judge has declined to certify Hayne as an expert.
Helfrich, incidentally, is a former assistant district attorney for Forrest and Perry counties in Mississippi. If he had any homicide cases during his time in the DA’s office, Hayne was almost certainly the doctor who performed the autopsy.