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.