Criminal Justice

Some Movement in Mississippi

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Mississippi State Rep. Bob Evans—also Cory Maye's chief counsel—introduced an amendment to an appropriations bill this week that would cut off all funding to the state medical examiner's office until the Department of Public Safety hires a board-certified state examiner.

The amendment was approved, and now moves into a conference committee to reconcile it with the state senate version of the same bill. The amendment would have to survive the conference committee to become law, but if it did, it would put a dent in the 1,500 or so autopsies done each year in the state by Dr. Steven Hayne. If the state were to hire a competent person with the wherewithal to clean things up down there, it could put Hayne out of business entirely.

"State law requires that we have a board-certified medical examiner and, unfortunately, we haven't had one for more than 10 years," Evans said Wednesday. "This gets specifically into my practicing of law - that's why I was on it today and why I will continue to beat that drum."

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Evans said he has also dealt with Hayne in his own trials before.

"I was involved in a case where a body was skeletonized - I mean that's all that was left from the waist up was bone - and Hayne testified in court that the person had died as a result of strangulation," Evans recounted. "I've had forensic pathologists - board certified pathologists - tell me that was ridiculous. The case ended in acquittal."

Evans said instances such as these were the reasons why he, along with Rep. Brandon Jones, D-Pascagoula, sought to amend the bill to require the state medical examiner's office to hire a board-certified examiner. Evans said that if the state were going to fund the office, then a full-time examiner should be in place and that examiner should be in full compliance with state law.

"Since we do have the office and we're funding it, we ought to use it," Evans said. "We should not be having to depend on someone like Dr. Hayne, who is not board-certified, doing these autopsies on which people's freedom - and sometimes their lives - depend."

Meanwhile, despite all that's come out over the last several months, Hayne is still doing the bulk of the state's autopsies.

My October 2007 reason feature on Hayne here.