Criminal Justice

Hattiesburg American Calls for Investigation of Hayne


The state's second-largest newspaper says it's time to investigate Mississippi's embattled medical examiner.

And in pretty strong language:

Even if it means that all of the cases that Hayne and West worked on come under review, the investigation should advance. Even if it costs thousands of dollars and thousands of hours, it will be worth it if even one person wrongly convicted is freed or wins a new trial.


The Innocence Project should be commended for its efforts and the Mississippi judicial system, already under a cloud of suspicion from the indictment of powerful attorney Dickie Scruggs and others, should be ashamed.

I don't agree with this part, though:

We also have to wonder why defense attorneys did not raise questions about the so-called experts' testimony. Why did it take the efforts of a New York-based group to ask the tough questions and do the heavy lifting?

I might add that a certain journalist from Washington, D.C. did a fair amount of lifting in all of this, too.

And while I have certainly heard some complaints about inadequacies with Mississippi's defense bar, there are several reasons why they've been unsuccessful in challenging Hayne. First, the guy's been getting certified by the state's courts for 20 years. It's understandable if, after a dozen or so unsuccessful attempts to get the guy discredited, a defense lawyer might throw up his hands, and conclude that he's better off focusing his limited time on other aspects of a case. Second, defense attorneys down there have tried to challenge his certification as an expert witness. They get shot down every time. Even since my articles on Hayne came out last fall, several defense attorneys in Mississippi have tried to file briefs calling for a Daubert hearing on Hayne. Thus far, they've been rejected every time. In one case, they were rejected even when they merely sought funds so an indigent defendant could hire an outside expert to review Hayne's work.

Finally, there have been warnings about Hayne. The state's last two official medical examiners tried to sound the alarm about him in the early and mid 1990s. State Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz warned about him in his opinion in the Tyler Edmonds case last year. The judges in Mississippi's courts have heard the argument against Hayne's credibility as an expert countless times in civil cases. Hayne also makes a lot of money testifying for plaintiff's attorneys in medical malpractice cases. In those cases, where the defendants tend to have the money to put up an aggressive defense, Hayne's shortcomings have been exposed at trial and in depositions on several occasions. And the state's best criminal defense attorneys like Andre de Gruy and Rob McDuff have been trying to call attention to Hayne for years.

Despite all of these warnings, nearly every institution in the state of Mississippi—the courts; the legislature; the executive; the professional organizations; and, yes, most certainly the press—have failed to do anything about Dr. Hayne. It's unfair to put this all at the feet of the criminal defense bar, which is overworked and underfunded. Many, many far more powerful people in the state could have corrected this problem a long time ago. They didn't, and still haven't.

NEXT: The Friday Political Thread: "If She's Not a Monster, How Come She's Still Moving?" Edition

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  1. The Rules of the justice game, by Alan M. Dershowitz

    I. Almost all criminal defendants are, in fact, guilty.

    II. All criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors, and judges understand and believe rule I.

    III. It is easier to convict guilty defendants by violating the Constitution than by complying with it, and in some cases it is impossible to convict guilty defendants without violating the Constitution.

    IV. Almost all police lie about whether they violated the Constitution in order to convict guilty defendants.

    V. All prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys are aware of rule IV.

    VI. Many prosecutors implicitly encourage police to lie about whether they violated the Constitution in order to convict guilty defendants.

    VII. All judges are aware of rule VI.

    VIII. Most trial judges pretend to believe police officers who they know are lying.

    IX. All appellate judges are aware of rule VIII, yet many pretend to believe the trial judges who pretend to believe the police officers.

    X. Most judges disbelieve defendants about whether their constitutional rights have been violated, even if they are telling the truth.

    XI. Most judges and prosecutors would not knowingly convict a defendant who they believe to be innocent of the crime charged (or a closely related crime).

    XII. Rule XI does not apply to members of organized crime, drug dealers, career criminals, or potential informants.

    XIII. Nobody really wants justice.

    Anyone who has spent time at the trial level in criminal law will recognize a corollary to rule 8: Most trial judges pretend to believe junk science if it is being offered against criminal defendants.

  2. I might add that a certain journalist from Washington, D.C. did a fair amount of lifting in all of this, too.

    Don’t sprain your arm patting yourself there, Radley.

    I’m kidding of course. Reasonoids are well aware of who the driving force of all this is. We admire and appreciate your work. Hopefully Hayne will die bitterly cursing your name.

  3. A place where a man can crawl to the top of the heap with a name like ‘Dickie Scruggs’ can’t be all bad (not that Dickie’s tenure at said top has much longer to run.)

    And, I admit, Mississippi is doing its level best to demolish that theory.

  4. One thing you need is a well funded and staffed Public Defenders office.

  5. I believe it should be “throw up” instead of “through up” and even out of context it seems more appropriate for this story.

    Thanks for burning the weekend oil and all the effort you’ve put into this.

  6. Even if it costs thousands of dollars,,,


    Go Mississippi!

  7. Thousands!
    Go Mississippi!

    I blame the unions.

  8. Radley, thank you for continuing to care even in the face of a system that dissuades if not actively rails against you for doing so.

  9. Lamont, bear in mind that II and XI are at odds with each other in that the former warps your perception of the latter.

    The Code of Federal Regs and the US Code combine to form a stack 30 feet high. That’s just the federal laws. Simply put, everyone is guilty of something and most people have committed at least one felony, maybe without even knowing it let alone intending it. This is the chief reason why vindictive or ambitious prosecutors are so dangerous. There are no innocent people.

  10. Oh, and, despite the cynicism of my last post, let me add my thanks to you for your excellent work, Mr. Balko.

  11. Yeah, those powerful Mississippi unions…

    This is why, if you lean left like me, you gotta love and appreciate the difference between a conservative and a libertarian. I tell my liberal friends (whom even I can’t stand sometimes), you gotta appreciate that difference (which they often ignore lumping you guys in with, yech, Ramesh Ponnuru or such). Can you imagine NRO writing about this kind of stuff? Too busy publishing that Dunphy guy and all the other law enforcement apologists…

    Bravo to Balko!

  12. Radley, thanks for not trusting the government and actually following through on it in a legitimate way. You really are a great example of journalistic integrity and tenacity.

  13. Mr Nice Guy: Many liberals place conservatives and libertarians in the same category: people who disagree with them. The reasoning doesn’t matter, you must be evil, stupid or a shill to question their good intentions.

  14. Mr. Boston
    As someone who leans left and subscribes to Reason: those people on the left who do that are ignorant in the classical sense. And arrogant, not even taking the time to understand what they criticize.

    On the other hand, conservatives often make a similar mistake when they seem to assume that libertarians must be “on their side” because, you know, they hate the government…Only, conservatives don’t hate the government all the time…Like when it promotes “virtue” or “national security.”

    I may not agree with libertarians all the time, but shit, at least I know the difference between “one of yous” and a conservative!

  15. I might add that a certain journalist from Washington, D.C. did a fair amount of lifting in all of this, too.

    We know.

    Your work will be recognized for what it is. Just keep doing it.

  16. Radley Balko is my favorite journalist. And I don’t throw those words around lightly.

  17. One hell of an article:

    Money quote:
    In recent weeks, officers have twice been photographed speeding past a camera and extending a middle finger, an act that police supervisors interpreted as a gesture of defiance.

    @&%)ing duh!!

  18. Radley Balko is my favorite journalist. And I don’t throw those words around lightly.

    I never thought I’d be saying this…and not because I have some sort of anti-media grudge or axe to grind, but because I never really thought about it. I was wrong. I now have a favorite journalist as well.

    Good work Mr. Balko.

  19. Well, Radley Balco is not my favorite journalist.

    But he comes in second to the one I married.

  20. You’re right Larry. Your wife is better. But Radley Balko is still pretty darn good.

  21. I’m in the Balko encomiastic chorus, and down with Hayne, West and Allgood. But, jsub is right, the part about RB’s own role was jarring. An investigative series can become part of the story, but traditionally the article would refer to “this publication’s work on the story” rather than foreground the individual reporter. Still, the Hattiesburg American should have recognized RB’s work.

  22. I now have a favourite living journalist too. Thanks, Radley Balko, for shining the light so brightly that even the Mississippi papers are finally picking up on the stench in the MS “justice” system. As an economic refugee from that benighted state, in which family still resides, kudos for your work in exposing Hayne, and the corrupt and evil prosecutors who use him knowing well his willingness to lie under oath. Hayne, West, and Forrest Allgood and his ilk all should have to can tomatos in Parchman Penitentiary for the rest of their natural lives, never to again be free to ruin the lives of innocent citizens.

  23. LarryA:

    I’m guessing you make your preference for your wife clear by spelling her name right…

  24. Knock it off…

    Excessive expansive praise tends to knock underdog tooled journos off their game.

    That said, w00t Radley!

  25. nicely done body of work, balko. one self-pat on the back and that’s it! keep up the pressure on this story as well as other ‘isolated incidents.’ as you can see, your work is valuable AND appreciated.

  26. Awesome work, Radley.

  27. Radley, your work is like the steady dripping of a leaky faucet in the middle of the night. Sooner or later people will become more and more irritated by all these “isolated incidents” and begin to question our perverted, illegitimate “justice system”.

    /can’t have informed juries.
    //juries can’t decide the unfairness or inappropriateness of laws.
    ///minimum mandatory sentences.

  28. Col Dubois: LarryA:

    I’m guessing you make your preference for your wife clear by spelling her name right…


  29. Radley, When you are finished cleaning up Mississippi come down here and do something about the profiling on I-12. My parish is now footing the bill for five years of incarceration for an Atlanta drug runner, among many others, I’m sure. Apparently only blacks and Mexicans are ever guilty of improper lane violations or following too closely. I wonder how many innocents were hassled to net the two or three busts a week.

  30. Bravo, Radley Balko!

    At the risk of offending the atheists, I believe only Biblical language can express what I feel about an establishment which would railroad people to prison with junk science:

    Psalm 67

    Exurgat Deus. . . .

    2 Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered: and let them that hate him flee from before his face. 3 As smoke vanisheth, so let them vanish away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. 4 And let the just feast, and rejoice before God: and be delighted with gladness. 5 Sing ye to God, sing a psalm to his name, make a way for him who ascendeth upon the west: the Lord is his name. Rejoice ye before him: but the wicked shall be troubled at his presence, 6 Who is the father of orphans, and the judge of widows. God in his holy place: 7 God who maketh men of one manner to dwell in a house: Who bringeth out them that were bound in strength; in like manner them that provoke, that dwell in sepulchres. 8 O God, when thou didst go forth in the sight of thy people, when thou didst pass through the desert: 9 The earth was moved, and the heavens dropped at the presence of the God of Sina, at the presence of the God of Israel. 10 Thou shalt set aside for thy inheritance a free rain, O God: and it was weakened, but thou hast made it perfect.

  31. Max, the only person I’ve ever seen on here who was offended about other posters’ religions (or the lack thereof) or discussions on religious subjects was you. Maybe I just haven’t been paying enough attention though.

    In case there’s any question, no offense taken from your quote from Psalms.

    I admit, I’m not particularly careful on here all the time to avoid giving offense to people who are religious, but nothing you’ve said has ever offended me.

  32. 2 Let God arise,…

    Who’s holding Him down? My Aunt Nancy ?

  33. Bible verses cause epilepsy. Just sayin’.

  34. I hope that as many as possible of Hayne’s criminalities are brought into the open. He genuinely seems to be a foul, corrupt individual, but the truly frightening thing is that he seems to be only one stinking lump in a much larger mound of sewage.

    Radley, your work regarding Hayne and Mississippi’s corrupt criminal justice system has been superb.

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