Criminal Justice

Head of Mississippi Prosecutors Association Says He'll Refuse Open Records Request

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Yesterday, I posted on the national and Mississippi Innocence Projects' open records request, which the organizations sent to all of the state's district attorneys. They're for information related to autopsies embattled medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne has performed in the state crime lab in Jackson.

The A.P. reports today…

District Attorney Ben Creekmore, president of the Mississippi Prosecutors Association, said he won't comply with the request, citing provisions in the state's Open Records Law that prohibit the release of documents related to criminal enforcement or that contain personal information about victims.

"There are families all across the state of Mississippi who would be affected by the wholesale release of information related to the death of their loved ones," Creekmore said.

Creekmore either hasn't read the request, or he's intentionally mistating what it entails. The request specifically allows for the redaction of personal information. It's not a demand for the "wholesale release of information" on possible victims of crime, it asks only for the names of the people on whom the autopsies were performed, which is certainly public information.

Creekmore's obstinance isn't surprising, but it's also unacceptable. There are now very serious concerns about the quality of Dr. Hayne's work, raised not just by me and the state and national Innocence Projects, but by Hayne's peers in the medical profession both in and out of the state, by people who have had to work with him in the state crime lab, by the last two official state medical examiners, by law enforcement officials in the state, and by the professional organizations where Hayne is a member. As an officer of the court and head of Mississippi's prosecutors' organization, Creekmore not only shouldn't be blocking attempts by outside groups to gauge the scope and extent of the damage Hayne has done, he ought to be conducting his own investigation.

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  1. Well, there’s only one reason to tie up and/or confound information requests… but doesn’t it end up looking worse than almost anything the documents could show, barring criminal malfeasance?

    …that being said, anything’s possible with this story, I guess.

  2. Gentlemen, we have to protect Hayne’s phoney baloney job.

  3. Betcha Hayne’s ousted within a week. There’s just too much attention to this for even a corrupt southern state to ride out.

  4. Translation: “You people just don’t understand us.”

  5. Harumph harumph harumph

  6. Harrumph! Harrumph!

  7. Pure and Easy,
    It took the feds to get black folk into white schools in Mississippi. That was Mississippi protecting their cultural heritage. This is to protect their own asses. I suspect the corruption is very widespread and they are all circling the wagons. This, I predict, will get much much uglier before it is fixed.
    Never underestimate the resolve of stupid people in the deep south.

  8. Never underestimate the resolve of stupid people in the deep south.

    I really don’t think southerners are any more obstinate than people anywhere else.

  9. More proof that “If you have nothing to hide…” is a one way street.

  10. Hey! I didn’t get a harrumph out of that guy!

  11. Here in the south, folks in power have a way of convincing themselves that their unlawful behaviour is for the greater good of the ignorant masses, and therefore it’s ok. I have never experienced a group of people more obstinate about their personal convictions. No matter how fiked up they may be.

  12. Standard operating proceedure. Make up an excuse to oppose anything that might expose you to any sort of liability. From the perspective of the Mississippi Prosecutors Association, no good can come of this. Best case scenario is that nothing bad comes of this.

  13. If the representative of a large corporation sat in the office of the Mississippi Economic Development Council and said, “It doesn’t make any difference; you can offer us tax rebates in perpetuity, free land, unreviewed sign-offs on Eminent Domain seizures, and any other goddamned thing you want, we are not going to relocate our people to a state where the court system will acept the jabbering of a witch doctor as ‘expert testimony.'”, Mississippi might make an effort to reform this crap.

    A bunch of smelly east coast hippies whining about “justice” won’t change anything.

  14. Harumph!

  15. Here in the south, folks in power have a way of convincing themselves that their unlawful behaviour is for the greater good of the ignorant masses, and therefore it’s ok.

    Seriously, you think that’s unique to the South?

  16. Hey, I’m from Mississippi and I’m a law student here at Ole Miss. I have several friends currently working with the Innocence Project that are elbow-deep in this quagmire.

    Is the South corrupt? Sure, see the Scruggs-fiasco, also based in Oxford, Mississippi. Don’t be so naive as to believe there isn’t a Northern-variant of the ‘good ol’ boy’ mentality at play elsewhere.

    This isn’t about east coast hippies, or do-gooders from wherever. Mississippi has problems, but we’re fixing them. I’m a little incensed that no article regarding the Innocence Project has acknowledged the extensive role that volunteer work from law students and local attorneys has played in this and other proceedings. At least this article makes clear that there is a STATE chapter of the Project; a minor blessing, it would seem.

    Humor me and let me know how many of ya’ll that criticized my state have actually visited Mississippi. If you haven’t, I’d suggest that you come visit Oxford. We’re actually hosting the first Presidential debate this year; it might be a good excuse to broaden your horizons.

  17. “There are families all across the state of Mississippi who would be affected by the wholesale release of information related to the death of their loved ones,” Creekmore said.

    Yes, they would be affected: they would receive justice for their loved ones’ mistreatment at the hands of the likes of Hayne.

    Jared, I think much of the criticism MS is receiving here and elsewhere isn’t intended to denigrate its citizens, but the flaws in its government that people like you are trying to reverse. People who use this to bash the south and its “hicks” don’t speak for the rest of us.

  18. yes, I’ve been to Mississippi in an effort to help a boy who was given a life sentence at age 15 convicted partly on “Dr” Hayne’s testimony that he knew what a defensive wound looked like. Otherwise, I probably would never have ventured down there from Chicago. Hopefully my next trip to the deep south will be to bond him out for a new trial where hopefully the resident expert “Dr. Hayne” won’t be available to assist for the prosecution (and then maybe I’ll be able to enjoy some of the scenery).

  19. R C Dean,
    I am not saying it doesn.t happen all over, just that in the south it is an art form.

    Jared,
    I lived in mississippi for 5 years, have family still there and my father was born there.I have been in Alabama for the last 10 years and lived here for 6 years as a kid. I am all too familiar with how the south operates.

  20. You guys seem alright… Pardon if I came off as hostile; I’m just so tired of the negative media around Mississippi.

    The only good news is that this age of Good Old Boy networking might be on its way out. Most of the people I’ve met in school are about as fed up with this nonsense as I am. A great example of why people are becoming fed up is this article from the local newspaper. A woman’s husband was killed by a drunk driver – a habitual drunkard and drug abuser – who happened to be related to a very prominent political figure here. In the investigation of Dickie Scruggs, information was recorded about her lawsuit (and its multiple postponements) – essentially the lawyer representing the DUI-Driver offered the judge half of his 20k dollar fee if he’d rule in his favor.

    This nonsense has to stop if the South is going to progress.

    My suggestion on visiting Oxford remains, however. It really is a pleasant place. Great Baseball team, football has a unique tailgating scene, strong literary history, etc. I only cringe at the possibility of Obama coming to Oxford as the democratic nominee this September. I say this because of the not so flattering past of Mississippi and particular the history or racial turbulence in Oxford during integration. Then again, maybe if we confront it, we’ll have people big enough to report the progress that has been made.

  21. Hmmm…seems to me all this Innocence Project/death penalty moratorium stuff started in Chicago, didn’t it? How many DNA exonerations did they get within a very short period of time? As I recall, in Chi Town, it was a matter of a bunch of stupid cops (who most likely were aided and abetted by a bunch of egomaniacal DA’s and problematic crime lab guys).

    The focus may be slightly different in this case, but MS has stupid cops, too.

    The good thing is that a bunch of bad stuff is coming to light, and the good guys get to get tough with the bad guys, AND MISSISSIPPI WILL FOREVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH LAW STUDENTS FROM OLE MISS WHO AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE ANYTIME SOON!

    It may sound terrible, but I was simply filled with glee to read those words filed by the Innocence Project. Creekmore is simply nailing the coffin shut. It’s gonna happen!
    Hayne is going down, and when he does, Forrest Allgood will, too. It will be very, very interesting to find out how many more really spineless DA’s there are within one state (pick a state, any state, any state at all, but the fun is going to be exposing all of these pinheads at once). Creekmore, may sound tough, but he should be shaking in his shoes. Why else would he be so defensive?

    Can’t wait. The party is only starting.

    Pam, I’m still wanting to get in touch with you, because there are people in Mississippi who can help the kid in Mississippi.

  22. http://www.myspace.com/savebrettjones

    tanya, please leave me a message here. Thanks.

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