Dr. Steven Hayne has responded in Jackson's Clarion-Ledger to a complaint filed by the national and Mississippi Innocence Projects to revoke his medical license. And to vouch for his credibility, he has summoned none other than District Attorney Forrest Allgood—the same guy who has had three murder convictions overturned, and who continued using "bite-mark expert" Dr. Michael West more than a decade after the disgraced dentist was exposed as a fraud.
Here, a closer look at Hayne and Allgood's comments:
"My experience with Hayne is that 99 times out of 100 he testifies this guy died and this is how he died," Allgood said. "How is that in any way convicting innocent people?"
I'm not even sure what this means. In the Tyler Edmonds case, Hayne put his medical expertise behind a Allgood's theory that two people held the gun that fired the bullets that killed a man. His testimony in the Cory Maye case was critical in casting doubt on Maye's credibility with the jury. In the Devin Bennett and Jeffrey Havard cases, Hayne's testimony that infant deaths were homicides instead of accidents was really the only evidence presented against the men. Both were sentenced to death. Hayne routinely testifies to matters well beyond the mere cause of death, many times well beyond his area of expertise.
The National Association of Medical Examiners limits pathologists to fewer than 250 autopsies a year.
Hayne said such a number is arbitrary. "There's one group that says you shouldn't do more than 350, and there are other groups that don't have a limit," he said. "Should I call the Innocence Project to see if I've done too many and stop?"
NAME is widely considered the guiding professional organization for forensic pathologists. But I'd challenge Hayne to find any medical organization willing to give its approval to the 1,500 to 1,800 autopsies he does per year. It isn't that he does 10 or 15 more than he should. It's that he does 5-8 times as many as he should. While testifying 2-3 times per week. And holding other jobs.
He estimates he works 110 hours a week. "Some people were put on this earth to party, and some people were put on this earth to work," he said. "I've always worked very hard."
And a forensic pathologist whose conclusions and trial testimony can determine whether or not someone is found guilty of murder shouldn't be working 110 hours per week. It's simply not possible to put in that kind of time and do an adequate job. Hayne's history of sloppy work bears this out.
Innocence Project officials say Hayne has wrongly testified he is "board certified" in forensic pathology. By contending he is board certified, officials say this is an obvious reference to the American Board of Pathology.
Hayne disputed that claim.
He said the American Board of Pathology has never construed its board as superior. He said he is certified in anatomical pathology and clinical pathology by that board. He is certified in forensic pathology by the American Board of Forensic Pathology.
Any forensic pathologist will tell you that in order to work in most hospitals, testify in court, and generally be accepted as "board certified" in a particular medical specialty, you have to be certified by an organization approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties. And in forensic pathology, that means a certification in the sub-specialty of forensic pathology by the American Board of Pathology.
No forensic pathologist I've talked to has heard of the "American Board of Forensic Pathology." It sounds suspiciously like the organization Hayne should have been certified by, but is just a bit off. The organization apparently doesn't have a website. It's also just one of several organizations of dubious merit from which he has claimed certification over the years. Given that Hayne only seems willing to speak to the Clarion-Ledger, perhaps a reporter there could ask him more about this mysterious organization. Does he have an actual certificate from them? Where are they located? What did he have to do to get certified?
He said the American Board of Pathology hasn't certified him because he walked out of the examination. He said he got angry at what he regarded as a stupid question—ranking in order what colors are associated with funerals instead of asking questions about forensic pathology.
"I've got a temper. I don't put up with crap like that," he said. "I walked out and took another examination from another board."
And yet for decades thousands of forensic pathologists have managed to take the same exam without storming off in anger.
Sometimes defense lawyers will ask for the funds to hire an expert to challenge Hayne, Allgood said. "So far I have yet to see any of them come and testify, which only leads me to the conclusion they agree with what he said."
Allgood is flat-out lying. First, many times when a defense attorney in Mississippi asks the court for funds to hire an expert to challenge Hayne, he is denied. That's what happened in the Jeffrey Havard case. Moreover, I personally know of cases in which Allgood was the prosecutor, where defense attorneys were able to procure an expert to counter Hayne. It's not surprising to see Allgood hedge and mislead on this stuff. But he's now brazenly lying on matters that can be pretty easily verified.
Finally, a bit of comic relief…
Hayne said he's the victim of modern-day McCarthyism by a group whose real aim is to gut the death penalty in Mississippi and other states.