Civil Liberties

Another Odd Steven Hayne Autopsy


In a piece about the Jimmie Duncan case (first reported here two weeks ago) Monroe, Louisiana's black newspaper the Free Press reports on yet another strange autopsy from former Mississippi medical examiner Steven Hayne.

In 2000 there was another strange autopsy report in Ouachita Parish. Jeremy Burton tried to rob a motel on Louisville avenue and was cornered by the cops in a dark alley. Shots were fired and a police officer initially admitted shooting him.

There was a local outcry when the autopsy report returned with a very strange result. It said Burton, who was left handed, swung his arm around a pipe over which he was draped and shot himself in the back of the head…twice.

There was never a trial of the officer. The case was swept under the rug, completing [sic] relying on the integrity of the autopsy report.

This is another problem Hayne presents: The 20 years worth of cases where critics say he may have altered autopsy results to clear police or people who were well-connected. In my 2007 piece on Hayne, I quoted from a public letter to the Jackson Advocate written by Dr. Lloyd White, one of the last two people to hold the position of state medical examiner in Mississippi and who, like his successor, eventually left the job in frustration after getting badgered by the state's coroners and DAs for trying to rein Hayne in. From the article:

Before leaving, [White] wrote a blistering public letter to Charles Tisdale, editor and publisher of the Jackson Advocate, a hard-hitting black paper sometimes called "the most firebombed newspaper in America." Tisdale's paper had been doggedly pursuing a series of suspicious suicides in Mississippi's jails that many civil rights leaders believed to be homicides.

White himself suspected the deaths really were suicides. But he didn't believe they were being properly investigated. In particular, he was troubled that the bodies were being sent to examiners like Hayne, who, experience taught him, couldn't be trusted to give an unbiased conclusion. White's letter called Hayne out by name, noting that despite his lack of credentials and poor practices, "Hayne continues to autopsy jail and prison deaths, as well as persons killed by police or sheriff's deputies, and to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal income as a result of his extremely cozy relations with…state employees and officials."