Hayne/West Story Hits Mississippi Media

The Hattiesburg American and the Jackson Clarion-Ledger both pick up my story we posted at Reason last week about a 1993 video of a bite mark examination on a 23-month old Louisiana girl named Haley Oliveaux. The video implicates Mississippi forensic experts Michael West and Steven Hayne in possible evidence tampering and perjury. The video shows bite marks appearing on Oliveaux on the second day of the examination that weren't there on the first, and it shows West repeatedly jamming and forcing a dental mold of suspect Jimmie Duncan's teeth into Oliveaux's corpse.

I want to focus on a few points from the Clarion-Ledger article, including a reaction from Hayne, Mississippi's now-terminated medical examiner who performed the Oliveaux autopsy with West, testified at Duncan's trial, and someone I've been investigating for a few years, now.

Here is Hayne's response:

Brandon pathologist Steven Hayne, who performed the autopsy in Mississippi, vehemently denies the suspicion that bite-mark expert Dr. Michael West of Hattiesburg did anything to tamper with the child's cheek to produce the marks. "This is so patently absurd, it's ludicrous," Hayne said...

Hayne said the abrasion "was there before. It just became more evident. We see that all the time."

If by "we," Hayne means he and West, he may well be correct. If by "we" he means he and other medical examiners, he's flat wrong. The experts I consulted with for the article say that abrasions form immediately after they're inflicted. They don't appear, or become more apparent, hours or days after death. That can sometimes happen with bruising, but not with an abrasion, which is what we see on Oliveaux's cheek.

Moreover, even giving Hayne and West the benefit of the doubt on the cheek mark that appears between the first and second days of the examination, the last 20 minutes of the video show West repeatedly jamming the dental mold into Oliveaux's body, over and over, more than 50 times. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single forensics professional—other than Hayne or West—who would argue that this is an acceptable way of analyzing forensic evidence. Those I spoke with called it criminal evidence tampering.

I'm also not sure about the explanation offered in the article that the removal of medical tape might have caused the mark on the cheek. Even if true, that explanation would still mean Hayne and West misidentified the mark as a bite mark, and you'd still have the matter of West's violation of Haley Oliveaux's corpse with the dental mold. But the problem with the tape theory is that in the first five minutes of the video, the tape has already been removed from Oliveaux's face, and there are no visible marks on her cheek.

It's also unfortunate that thus far, Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson seems to have no interest in investigating the video. You have to wonder what sort of evidence it would take for Simpson to begin an investigation into these two.

Here's the most unsettling line in the article:

Hayne said he is now doing autopsies in Louisiana, plus private cases he handles.

So Louisiana coroners and district attorneys are apparently still giving Hayne work, even after all that has come out about him in the last year.

My story in the April issue of Reason will address some of the other evidence against Jimmie Duncan that's discussed in the Clarion-Ledger article.

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  • nobody||

    And I had always thought that this plot sequence was the least believable part of The Wire.

  • ||

    Mississippians, repeat after me: Thank God for Louisiana.

  • ||

    Bravo, Radley.

    Well, I'm glad this story is getting traction. I see this converging with the Frederick, Johnston and Calvo stories. I hope that people are finally realizing that there are serious problems with policing and prosecutions.

    And Epi, please don't harsh my mellow on this, OK?

  • ||

    Tonio, sadly, not enough people are tuned in.

  • ||

    I know, Nick, I know, but it's progress in the right direction, albeit incremental.

  • Sean||

    Duncan needs to file a multi-million dollar lawsuit against those nimrods including the state and the so called experts. The state is probably resisting correcting this because of the far reaching implications to all the other cases.

  • ||

    The state is probably resisting correcting this because of the far reaching implications to all the other cases.



    Yes, the state just wants all this to go away. They especially don't want to invite lawsuits by admitting just how bad Hayne is. So they've eased him out, not saying anything bad about him,

  • ||

    Maybe they'll go after Hayne and West in 30-40 years like they have in civil rights cases. That way they get some justice and save some face.

  • ||

    Duncan needs to file a multi-million dollar lawsuit against those nimrods including the state and the so called experts.

    IANAL, but my understanding is that you need the state's permission to sue it in its own courts. Not sure if this applies to suits in federal court.

    The state is probably resisting correcting this because of the far reaching implications to all the other cases.

    Not to mention the questions about competence, waste, fraud, abuse, who knew what when, etc. It's either going to boil over big time, or get swept under the rug -- no middle ground.

  • micro2000||

    Please keep up the investigation on these two. I personally met West, as he was a dentist in Hattiesburg, MS, where I went to college. My ex-mother in law despises the man stemming from her experiences of having dental work performed by him.

    His whole refusal to allow others study his "techniques" is classic pseudo-science.

  • Taktix®||

    Hayne said the abrasion "was there before. It just became more evident. We see that all the time."

    Perhaps in your jurisdiction, sir...

    Seriously, is Hayne even trying to appear clean anymore?

  • ||

    """Hayne said he is now doing autopsies in Louisiana, plus private cases he handles. """

    I wonder how easy it will be to challenge his work in court there.

  • Dello||

    Fuck Reason's rules: Some people just need killing.

  • Photoman||

    Ouachita Parish has it's share of corrupt politicians - many things would not surprise me but this case is very disturbing.
    After watching the video I wonder two things - how can this type of evidence be uncovered and Jimmie Duncan not get a new trial and where was this mans lawyers when all this was being tried in the Judicial System?
    Did they request the video's during the Discovery Phase? This man was being tried for Capitol Murder

    Was this a separate segment of video that was not available during Discovery, a clip that hit the edit room floor maybe?
    I have a certain video clip from a lawyer who works in the same DA's Office which proves he will creatively edit interrogation video's (man does he regret letting that one out!)

  • ||

    "You have to wonder what sort of evidence it would take for Simpson to begin an investigation into these two."

    Satan appearing in his office, bending him over and giving him a taste of the eternal ass-fucking he's going to be getting?

    Do unto others after all.

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