Breaking, Bizarre News in Mississippi

First, the good news. The Mississippi House of Representatives has passed the bill requiring anyone doing autopsies in the state to be board certified in forensic pathology by the American Board of Pathology. The bill now goes to Gov. Haley Barbour. As I reported last week, the bill faced opposition from Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who sent an email urging lawmakers to defeat it, and has been active in trying to bring back disgraced medical examiner Steven Hayne (Hayne is not board certified).

One more item from that story: Hood told the Sun Herald newspaper last week that Hayne "has also worked on the defense side of cases in which he was involved," attempting to deflect the criticism that Hayne is a shill for prosecutors. Over the last several days, I've contacted a half dozen defense attorneys in Mississippi to see if they know of any cases in which Hayne has testified for the defense. A few have been in practice for 20 years. Of the six, just one could remember a single case from the early 1990s, before Hood was a DA. I called Hood's office to ask for a list of cases in which Hayne testified for the defense during Hood's time in the district attorney's office. They haven't yet responded.

Now for the really weird news: Tennessee Chief Medical Examiner Bruce Levy was arrested in Mississippi on a drug charge last night. Levy is also the owner of Global Forensics, the Nashville company that has been doing Mississippi's autopsies since Commissioner of Public Safety Steve Simpson effectively fired Steven Hayne in 2008. According to Jackson TV station WAPT, Levy was arrested after receiving a package of marijuana delivered to his hotel room by undercover officers with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. According to early reports, the amount of marijuana in the package was small, but just enough to trigger a felony charge. Levy was in Mississippi to testify in a case for which he performed the autopsy.

So on the night before the Mississippi House was to vote on a bill that would ban Steven Hayne from doing any more autopsies in the state—a bill vigorously opposed by the state's attorney general, district attorneys, and coroners—the state's anti-drug police agency conducts a pot sting on the owner of the firm that has replaced Hayne. Sometimes these things really are mere coincidence. But that's pretty incredible timing.

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  • Windypundit||

    If this is what it looks like, it's a huge criminal conspiracy within the police departments of several states.

    Do you think anyone outside the libertarian media will notice?

  • Mississippi news anchor||

    Our top story tonight...PUPPIES! A new study finds that most people like puppies, which the editor of Cat Fancy magazine calls "a startling surprise." More on this controversial story after the break.

  • ||

    And just the right amount to trigger a felony, eh? And delivered by police, eh?

  • Radley Balko||

    If the worst is true--and I'm only saying the timing is very coincidental--it would only involve police in Mississippi. Levy was arrested in Mississippi, not Tennessee. He was in Mississippi to testify in one of the cases for which he performed the autopsy.

  • ||

    This is about as coincidental as me flying to the planet Neptune and running into Brad Pitt.

  • ||

    Judi,
    Call me.
    Brad

  • ||

    Brad darling,

    I will call as soon as we do a wrap on the set of my new movie.

    Love you bunches,

    Judi

  • Windypundit||

    Oh, I mis-read. It's just one state. And that state is not New York, California, D.C., so no one will notice it.

  • ||

    This is just crazy. I can't believe that Hood would do this just to keep Hayes around. But since I do believe the police and DAs are corrupt enough to frame someone, I have to ask: what is motivating them so much to do this?

    If it's not just coincidence, of course.

  • ||

    I A guy I know used to smoke marijuana regularly. He never bought it from strangers out of state to be delivered to his motel room. If he was travelling he would take enough for the trip (bought from his regular supplier) with him.

  • ||

    I think you were looking for <strike>, no?

    This is a very, very suspicious twist. I can't believe that the Tennessee guy would do this, but I'm just amazed that AG Hood is apparently even more corrupt than I thought.

  • ||

    Yeah. That preview function is just too complicated for me.

  • ||

    I'll be very interested to hear the recorded phone message where Levy ordered up a felony amount of marijuana during a brief out-of-state trip.

    I mean, if this was a sting, they must have recorded the phone call, right? Right?

  • indknow||

    where in the news release did it say that he ORDERED it from someone????It DIDN'T!

  • ||

    Yeah, nothing suspicious about that. 'Cause I always buy my pot from out-of-town dealers and have it delivered to my hotel room when I drive to a nearby state to do consulting work. It's so much easier than using my local dealer that I've been working with for many years. And I'd rather carry a large package of dope across state lines instead of a small stash for just a couple of days. Yeah, it all adds up....

    Let's see if they actually have any recorded audio of him ordering the drugs, or if there's just officer testimony. Radley, I'm going to have to stop reading your stuff. You are starting to make me paranoid.

    Just yesterday I came across the case of Rehberg v. Paulk, in which a prosecutor and police officer framed someone for felony assault, among other things. In this case Rehberg proved that they conspired to frame him, but the circuit court ruled that he couldn't do anything about it because they had absolute immunity. Brilliant. Like a much smaller version of the Mississippi Supreme Court saying that "just because the ME has been wrong many times in the past, and has been shown to have committed fraud in a couple of cases is no reason to discount his testimony in this case."

    I guess if they'll do it in even in a death penalty case, how much more likely are they to frame someone in a trivial case like drug possession? I mean, if they are not afraid to commit an actual murder (in framing someone for a capital crime) - how can you possibly think they'd bat an eyelash at the idea of sending an innocent man away for 20 years?

  • ||

    I've heard from sources inside the DA's office here in Albany that Ken Hodges - who is running for GA Attorney General - is absolutely guilty as sin in Rehberg v Paulk. The local political site, SWGAPolitics.com, has quite a bit on it - just hit "Ken Hodges" in the search bar.

  • ||

    Looks like the minimum felony amount in Tennessee is 1/2 oz. Just for the record.

  • Michael||

    He wasn't arrested in Tennessee.

  • ||

    Arrgh. Good point.

    In Mississippi, the minimum for a felony is 30 grams, or just a hair over an ounce.

    Dunno about you, but I have never, in my life, ever even heard of a real dealer who gave you an actual ounce of pot when you bought an
    "ounce" from him.

    The stink just won't quit on this one.

  • André||

    Who buys an ounce of pot when he's out of state?

    (My dealers weigh my shit in front of me.)

  • Zeb||

    No, usually it is 28 g. (just under), which seems to be an especially smart move in Mississippi.

  • ||

    Actually this wouldn't take a huge conspiracy. You just need one person to set the sting. Everyone else just thinks it's a normal drug bust sting and are none the wiser. Question though, did he order this or did the cops just drop it off and when he took it did they take him down? Seems like part of the story is missing.

  • nobody||

    This is ridiculously over the top.

  • B||

    There is no f***ing way someone with half a brain (and regular contact with law enforcement) would do something so stupid as to order pot delivery from a stranger, in a strange town. And it's even less likely that if they did, they would order "just enough" to trigger felony charges.

    Radley, I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you find yourself in Mississippi again, please watch your ass.

  • Sandi||

    I took a shit in Mississippi once.

  • Al Dente||

    Sandi: and look what happened. They made it an Attorney General.

  • ||

    Where's the referee who calls the thread winner? This looks like a candidate.

  • ||

    Sandi, You forgot to FLUSH!

  • ||

    if you keep pulling the flush handle, eventually the turds disappear.

  • ||

    Yeah Pam, and too, the stick (Hayne) will have no reason to keep stirring (Hood).

  • indknow||

    AGAIN.....where did the news say that he "ordered" it from someone else??It didn't. So....there goes your conspiracy!!! And, B....I would think that Mr. Balko has BEEN watching his a** when in MS. No Southern hospitality to folks stirring an already bad situation!

  • virginia||

    "Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Simpson upon learning of Levy’s arrest immediately suspended his privileges within the state and notified Global Forensics their contract will be terminated."

    There is a 100% chance that Hayne will CEO/Chair whatever company wins that contract.

    "Agents then obtained a search warrant and searched Levy's hotel room, where they discovered several small containers of marijuana, according to a news release. Levy, 49, was arrested and is charged with felony possession of marijuana, MBN said."

    Are they going for an amount exceeding the distribution threshold?

    "Tennessee Health Commissioner Susan Cooper said the state is taking immediate action to end its contract with Levy, who has been chief medical examiner since March 1998."

    Spineless bureaucrat.

  • ||

    "Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Simpson upon learning of Levy’s arrest immediately suspended his privileges within the state and notified Global Forensics their contract will be terminated."

    There is a 100% chance that Hayne will CEO/Chair whatever company wins that contract.

    FWIW, Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Simpson has been a loud and public supporter of the new law, unlike AG Hood. I suspect that he felt backed in a corner on this issue, rather than being part of what looks like a conspiracy.

  • ||

    It gets even better virginia, because Commissioner Stephen Simpson is rumored to be planning to run against Jim Hood for Attorney General in 2011.

  • virginia||

    My inner cynic expects a 'grandfather clause' amendment to the bill that just passed. It just looks like those involved will do what's necessary to keep their beaks dipped.

  • indknow||

    do you REALLY think the AG and others would've opposed this bill if there was a grandfather clause? nope!

  • ||

    If you look at Hood's connections to Dickie Scruggs in the shakedown of insurers following Katrina and the tobacco settlements, there is nothing surprising about this at all. As you may know, Scruggs is now serving time in a federal prison for bribing judges.

  • peachy||

    This is one situation where getting the feds involved could be a good thing. A real hardass DA like Fitzgerald would go through the political and legal communities down there like a hurricane.

  • ||

    That conveniently-timed sting is just so third-world.

  • ||

    It's hard to believe someone involved in politics would do something like that in the State of Mississippi!

    I was raised with a little Southern pride myself, but is it really necessary to be the worst state in every category?

    Sheesh.

  • dude from AL||

    Thank God for Mississippi! ;D

  • dude from LA||

    Thank God for Mississippi and Alabama!

  • Dave In MS||

    That's funny, we always say the same thing about LA and MS.

  • dennis||

    Go through Missouri outside of St. Louis and K.C. There are a few nice cities here and there, but for the most part rural Missouri is like "The Hills Have Eyes."

  • Ozark Bill||

    Screw you dennis. If you think St. Louis and Kansas City are cosmopolitan oases of culture and erudition, or are in any way different from any other part of Missouri, you need to travel more. Have you ever left the Central Time Zone?

  • ||

    "Agents then obtained a search warrant and searched Levy's hotel room, where they discovered several small containers of marijuana" Ok, so wait. He HAD some already, but he was buying MORE?

  • Tommyboy||

    When I lived in Alabama when things got bad or stupid people often said "Well at least we're not from Mississippi". I think I understand now.

  • Kaganspawn||

    Although neither Mr. Levy nor anyone else deserves criminal prosecution for that particular offense, his experience is not the real story here. Congratulations to Mr. Balko, the Innocence Project, and all those who have worked to put the brakes on the Hayne machine and this most egregious outpost of prosecutorial misconduct. Is there any indication whether the governor will sign the bill?

  • ||

    Sandy, you forgot to FLUSH!

  • Paul||

    So am I reading this right? Essentially, the cops can ship any person in their jurisdiction a package containing a felonious amount of marijuana, and then when you pick the package out of your mailbox, you're guilty of possession?

  • wayne||

    So am I reading this right? Essentially, the cops can ship any person in their jurisdiction a package containing a felonious amount of marijuana, and then when you pick the package out of your mailbox, you're guilty of possession?

    Yes, and it carries a mandatory, and summary, death sentence for your dog.

  • Joel||

    Hey, maybe they're all really just mad that Levy didn't bring a dog.

  • ||

    Yeah, they didn't have anything to shoot!

  • Cop||

    Fuck, man! I really wanted to shoot a goddamn dog! You ever shot a dog before, rookie? It's a hell of a fucking rush, lemme tell you. Shit, I'm just going to go find a stray and shoot it. I gotta shoot a dog RIGHT NOW!

  • ||

    Given that this appears to be a conspiracy with the head of the Mississippi justice system as one of the co-conspirators, is there any way that Levy can request a trial in another state, given that he is unlikely to get one in MS?

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    He can request it all he wants, but I guaran-damn-tee you they won't grant that request.

  • ||

    The Mississippi prosecution machine had its own issues with Global Forensics. They didn't like the fact that the people doing the autopsy refused to allow prosecutors and other county officials in the room when autopsies were being performed, and other practices designed to keep the results from being tainted.

  • ||

    I think we have a WINNER!

  • indknow||

    Tulpa....you are INCORRECT! I know for a FACT (from personal experience) that county officials and law enforcement ARE allowed in when autopsies are being performed. But, it's very regulated.

    And, Mr. Balko, once again, you are printing information supposedly as TRUTH which is not even CLOSE!!! You cannot rely on hearsay.....try talking to the actual people involved (ie: coroners)....IF you can convince one of them to take your call!!! THey know YOU....and the CRAP that you represent and probably will not give you the time of day!

  • juanita||

    now the tennessee pathologist won't be celebrating the autopsy bill passage with a pot party.

  • ||

    I wonder who's drug possession case was dropped so "evidence" would be available.

  • ||

    Ironically, the only legally grown marijuana (under federal law) in the US is grown at U Miss.

  • ||

    Imagine that!

  • André||

    It's not any good. The marijuana they make available for studies regarding the medicinal value of pot is sometimes more than a year old. That, and it's only a few percent THC to begin with. The feds have a vested interest in people finding it to be not very useful medicinally.

  • Kolohe||

    I wouldn't rule out a conspiracy.

    But I also wouldn't rule out Bruce Levy being mind-numbingly stupid. He is a government official after all ;).

    Tennessee Chief Medical Examiner Bruce Levy was arrested in Mississippi on a drug charge last night. Levy is also the owner of Global Forensics, the Nashville company that has been doing Mississippi's autopsies

    You know, intrinsically, there's something not quite right about this. It's like a active duty US Army general being the owner of a private security contractor.

  • ||

    It seems "they" will go to great lengths to protect this guy. I wonder why? Hayne already went "splat", so what could it be???? (wink, wink)

  • ||

    I've been thinking, maybe this has more to do with the case he was about to testify in than it does the HB. Someone should check that out.

  • billo||

    Dr Levy is well respected in the forensic medicine community. This is uncharacteristic of him. Considering his efforts at reforming Mississippi's corrupt system, this setup just doesn't pass the smell test.

  • ||

    Interesting that Dr. Levy hasn't denied the felony charges against him. Only a guilty man would stay so quiet.

    Our country has determined that as a felon your word has no value. You can’t vote, hold office, sign a deed, or testify in court. Why have we entrusted so much to someone whose word is worth so little?

    Character still counts in my book. I am glad Dr. Levy is leaving. Mississippi is better than that and we need someone with personal integrity.

    Furthermore, the FBI should give Dr. Levy a drug test so the public can see the levels of narcotics in his system. I just hope he wasn't performing autopsies on drugs. I know it is a disturbing thought, but given his irresponsible judgment, it is a relevant concern.

  • Jess||

    "Only a guilty man"

    Spoken like a typical POS cop. All intelligent people lawyer up, especially when confronted with such an obvious official conspiracy. You pigs think you can subtly comment on official misconduct threads and we your subjects will be none the wiser, considering you just another concerned citizen, but your very language gives you away.

    You cops are our employees, not our overseers. Your laziness, your violence, your disregard for rights, the whole ridiculous drug war, all of that is bad enough. When you surpass that "expected" bad behavior and start framing innocent people for your own blatantly self-serving commercial purposes, you can't expect to get away with it.

  • ||

    Wow, so the cops BROUGHT HIM the ganja?

    Charge them with trafficking.

  • indknow||

    once again.....do ya'll REALLY think they released the specifics of the case?????Um......NOPE!!!So, quit alledging this is a set-up. ANd, NO....one cannot be charged for felony possession just because a cop decides to drop some marijuana on you (posing as a delivery guy)! DURH!!!

  • ||

    Wasn't going to comment until I read jxncitizn's atrocious statements.

    Ever heard of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Obviously not. Go get someone to read it to you. Thank God our U.S. Constitution does not REQUIRE or even EXPECT us to prove or even say that we aren't guilty.

    Felons CAN vote in MS except for a few specified crimes that cost you your suffrage rights (that means "your right to vote", jxncitizn).

    And while you're correct about felons not being able to hold public office, they CAN certainly sign deeds and testify in court.

    BTW, another seemingly important point. Neither you nor Dr. Levy is, in fact, a felon until he has been convicted. Ever hear of the presumption of innocence? Obviously not.

    In my opinion, the "character" to which you refer includes the realization and agreement that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

    And why the hell do you think that the FBI has a dog in this fight? We're talking about MS law, not federal. And even if a drug test WERE to be done now, how in the HELL would that tell you how much or even IF Levy was in any way impaired when he did any particular autopsy in the past?

    Finally, isn't it time that we quit trying to RUIN people's lives by charging them with smoking weed? Other than being illegal, is that any worse, in reality, than getting soused on Johnny Walker Red or Maker's Mark? I think not.

  • ||

    Cases involving crimes that cross state lines are within the juristiction of the FBI.

  • ||

    Anyone who thinks that buying drugs is no different from buying Johnny Walker, clearly has their head up their a**. Remember, most of the violence and corruption plaguing the US-Mexican border is fueled by US demand for drugs. By purchasing marijuana in the US, you are fueling the drug war and helping to ensure that innocent people who speak out against a violent, corrupt, and illegal system continue to be silenced (often tortured and decapitated). Supporting the legalization of drugs through lawful means is perfectly fine! Supporting the drug war and its fallout by increasing demand is pathetic and naive.

  • ||

    The insanely violent suppression of the hemp plant, knowledge of its phenomenal usefulness to humanity, is the real crime. Is it something about living in the US that just breeds violence?

  • ||

    A convicted felon can not testify as an expert wittness in MS.

  • ||

    I would like to follow the trial, but wonder if Dr. Levy will plead guilty. Afterall, he hasn't objected to the charges.

  • ||

    jxncitizn, Let's not convict the man in the media YET. Thousands of innocent people get accused and arrested every day.

    Levy's attorney (and I'm pretty sure he is smart enough to have one or hired one) has probably advised him to NOT make any statements...period.

    I think the whole fiasco is a bit 'fishy' since Madison county (where the arrest took place)abuts both Hinds and Rankin counties and is Hayne's stomping grounds.

    I wanna know WHAT prompted the 'routine' check...

    As far as felons are concerned, there's one running for sheriff in N.C. as we live and breath:

    http://projects.newsobserver.c.....wman_again

    http://images.google.com/image.....CCAQsAQwBA

    WTF?

  • ||

    Where is your evidence that this crime "crossed state lines"?

    And your post didn't specify exclusion as an expert witness.

    And once again you attempt to make your inane point about Levy not having "objected" to the charges.

    Get a life!

  • ||

    The package containing drugs was mailed from TN to MS, meaning it crossed a state line.

  • ||

    Personally, I think Levy's arrest was BS and a red herring to throw the attention off of the bill that passed.

    Levy is in essence, the sacrificial lamb.

    jxncitizn, where did you hear it was mailed from TN to MS? Maybe I missed something.

    At any rate, anyone at any time, anywhere can FEDEX a package to any place so this still does not prove he HAD it mailed to himself.

  • ||

    I don't know. This whole thing is wierd. I just read "The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is probing whether Dr. Bruce Levy took marijuana and any other items from the medical examiner’s evidence room, TBI spokeswoman Kristin Helm said." Getting dope off a dead person is sick. I've heard of grave robbing but corpse robbing would be much worse.

  • the Puppet||

    This is exactly the type of case that should raise red flags. The whole case - from start to finish - is very suspect.

    First...According to a source very close to the case, the cops opened the package BEFORE delivering it to Levy. Then they closed it up, delivered it, and opened it again after Levy accepted the package. So, that means that the cops KNEW that the amount in the box was not enough for a felony possession charge, but they still went undercover with numerous officers in an organized raid to get some random guy in a random hotel room for a misdemeanor charge? Seems like quite a bit of police activity for a relatively minor charge. Strange, no?

    Second...At no point did Levy open the package himself. All he did was sign for a box sent to his hotel room. So in this country, you can be arrested for signing for an unopened box?

    Third, the amount in the "unopened" box was not enough for a felony charge. It was only the "extra" pot that he allegedly had in the room that boosted the charge to a felony. Why would Levy leave the state with pot, and then have more pot sent to him? And if he had a pot guy to buy from, why steal pot from an evidence room? He makes plenty of money. Surely he can afford to buy a little pot from time to time. Why steal? We are not talking about crack, we are talking about a mellow green PLANT. And by the way, any cop (and certainly any DA) can get access to pot from any evidence locker.

    Fourth...The initial stories reported that the pot in the box and the pot found in the room were both stored in the same containers. Now, all of a sudden, some of the pot was in evidence bags? Why the sudden change in the story?

    Fifth...When you really think about it, it becomes very clear. If they just tried to set him up with the pot from the box, everyone would be in an uproar because Levy never actually opened the box, so where is the evidence? But, if there is also pot found in his room, AHA! Then they can argue that Levy must be a pot smoker and therefore he must have known what was in the box. And worse, now Levy is some evil creepy pot smoker who steals pot from dead bodies? Come on! Very slippery slope people.

    Sixth. Interestingly, the very same amount of pot in Tenn. is not a felony. Hmmmm. So, a smart and educated doctor just happens to take just enough pot with him to a neighboring state to elevate a charge from a misdemeanor to a felony? Come on. They can't sell it to me. No way.

    Seventh...Another thought...when was the last time that you heard about a drug arrest where two separate stashes were found (and reported) in the same bust? And for such a small amount to boot. Usually, the police say they found X amount of pot in a bust. They don't say...we found some pot in the kitchen and some in a box. But in Levy's case, they specifically reference separate pot stashes? Odd, no?

    Eighth. Even if Levy smokes recreationally, SO WHAT???? It still smells like a set up. Nothing here adds up. An unopened box? Sent to a hotel room? Just the right amount for a felony. Conflicting reports about the way the pot was packaged? And all on the same day as a crucial vote that would push out one guy and make Levy and his company a lot of money?

    Lesson here: When someone in the government wants to get you, you're a sitting duck.

  • dan||

    Who is Erkin Bekbolotov ?

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