Criminal Justice

Updates in Mississippi


A few new items on the Dr. Steven Hayne debacle in Mississippi.

The Hattiesburg AmericanMississippi's second-largest newspaper—asks DAs around south-central Mississippi if they're still using Dr. Steven Hayne to perform autopsies, in spite of the allegations against him to come out over the past several months. Not surprisingly, all of them said they have no problem with Hayne, and plan to keep using him. At this point, I think you could make a pretty good case that continuing to use Hayne amounts to a breach of ethics.

The paper's editorial board was concerned enough about the responses that they fired off a separate editorial denouncing the prosecutors.

This strikes as three ostriches putting their heads in the sand. How can these DA's be at all confident in Hayne's work given the information that has come out about the pathologist?

The DA's have been asked by the Innocence Project to turn over any documents pertaining to Hayne, including official reports on autopsies.

We hope they are complying. They must, if they believe in justice.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has funded $500,000 this year for a state medical examiner. The state has been without one since 1994 and if more of Hayne's work is found to be faulty, the state will have no one but itself to blame.

Again, it's not surprising. If any of these prosecutors were to admit to having reservations about Hayne, they'd have to admit his testimony may have tainted some of their convictions. Additionally, Hattiesburg is in Forest County, Mississippi. That's the home of Dr. Michael West, who was also once coroner of Forest County. The good ol' boy network runs thick in what locals call the "Pine Belt." One of the DAs interviewed for the article, Jon Mark Weathers, used Hayne in at least one civil before he became a prosecutor.

Another case has surfaced in which Hayne issued a questionable autopsy report. A woman was jailed for more than a year and lost custody of her kids after Hayne determined her infant daughter died of alcohol poisoning. Hayne based that diagnosis on a toxicology report showing the child died with an astonishing blood-alcohol level of 0.4.

Problem is, a review of Hayne's work by Dr. Leroy Riddick of Alabama determined that there were no other signs of alcohol poisoning, and that Hayne had every reason to question the results from the lab. Subsequent tests showed much, much lower blood-alcohol levels, as low as .02. Riddick says the child died of interstitial pneumonia and myocarditis. The mother was to be charged in the death of her son. I'm told that the charges will now likely be dropped.

• Finally, there's more detail on an odd case of swapped bodies in Clarksdale, Mississippi. In that case, a mother who'd had lingering suspicions about the body county officials told her was her daughter's finally succeeded in having the body exhumed and DNA tested. Testing showed the body was not her daughter, and in fact may have been of a different sex. Hayne performed the autopsy, which also had the daughter's height off by half a foot. To be fair, while something clearly went very worng with Mississippi's autopsy system, here, it isn't yet clear if the mistake was Hayne's. It's at least possible that the county coroner mixed up the bodies before delivering them to Hayne.

NEXT: Money, It's a Crime/Share it Fairly but Don't Take a Slice of My Pie

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  1. Why are you picking on the guy?

  2. It’s at least possible that the county coroner mixed up the bodies before delivering them to Hayne.

    Wouldn’t catching this error, be kinda, you know… part of Hayne’s fucking job?!?

  3. Hey Radley, do you take requests?

    After this Hayne guy gets taken down, can you go after Joe Arpaio next? Pleeeeeeease?

  4. Of course they have no problem with using Hayne. All they care about is getting convictions. They don’t give a damn about justice. They’ve certianly known all along that Hayne’s a quack who reports exactly what they want him to for their cases.

  5. I am so not ever going to Mississippi.

  6. If Mississippi would fire Hayne and buy a tarot deck, they’d get the exact same results for a much lower price. I’d also be happy to give them my used coffee grounds, if they’d like to divine the future from that.

  7. Jennifer,

    No, neither the coffee grounds nor tarrot cards would give the exact police story 100% of the time.

  8. Just wait. People won’t get upset about living people wrongly imprisoned, but misplacement of dead bodies will drive people to outrage.

    However, whatever gets Hayne shitcanned is fine with me.

  9. As someone with decades of experience in medical records technology let me explain how this most likely (99% chance) works.

    Dr. Hayne gets what the police think happened and his report is done. He may do a cursory exam to try to find things to corroborate this story but the report is already done and anything found will just be added.

    We have (still) a dentist here in Central Florida who makes millions from insurance companies on IMEs (Independent Medical Examination). They are of course not at all independent because although the examiner is paid in advance if the report doesn’t say what the insurance company wants it to say he will get no future work.

    This doctor has a standard report that is already types in the computer denying coverage or causality. The patient comes into the office, they get the patient’s identifying info, vitals, etc and add this to the report. The report is finished already before the patient is even seen.

    The doctor pokes and prodes the patient a bit and send him on his way pretending to be very sympathetic. He tells the patient the report will be ready in a couple weeks.

    Meanwhile it’s already been faxed the insurance company 90% of the time, unless he found something he can use in the exam in which case this is added before faxing.

    Hayne’s “reports” are probably a variation on this.

  10. No, neither the coffee grounds nor tarrot cards would give the exact police story 100% of the time.

    Nonsense. A cursory glance at the bottom of my coffee mug yields the following results: “That black guy you arrested last night is totally guilty.”

    What more does a justice system need?

  11. Personally, I’d like ta see a couple prison stoolies snitchin’ the guy out. But that’s just me…

  12. Jennifer,

    What be wrong wit’ da’ coffee can we got now? I work, don’t it?

  13. The Hattiesburg American-Mississippi’s second-largest newspaper…

    So given Mississippi’s literacy rate, I’d guess most of the state still hasn’t heard of Dr. Hayne. Let me know when “Dr. Steven Hayne is possessed by the Devil” is heard from the pulpit of ‘Mississippi’s second largest church’.

  14. Jennifer,
    Those wouldn’t be Chase & Sanborn Coffee grounds by any chance?

  15. So given Mississippi’s literacy rate…

    Um, Warren, don’t you live in Missouri? Just sayin’…

  16. Warren,

    When I graduated high school, I believe Mississippi had a 40% dropout rate. Interestingly, 60% of all college graduates leave the state.

  17. It’s at least possible that the county coroner mixed up the bodies before delivering them to Hayne.

    I’m hoping for more explanation on this. I am not any kind of doctor, but I believe that if I looked at a dead body (not too badly decomposed) that I could tell the sex of the person and get the height to within a couple of inches.

    …well, I could do it unless I was trying to do 30,000 of these cases per year and didn’t have time to actually look at each of the bodies.

  18. Not Chase and Sanborn, Warren: Chock Full O’Nuts. Perfect for any state that keeps Hayne on staff.

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