Civil Liberties

Mississippi County Wants To Rehire Dr. Steven Hayne


Hayne is the medical examiner who was fired by the state last summer after continuing questions about his independence and credibility—questions first exposed by Reason in my November 2007 feature.

Now one Mississippi county wants to rehire him:

With no medical examiner or pathologist at the top of the state's food chain, Attala County Coroner Sam Bell asked the Attala County Board of Supervisors to consider hiring Dr. Steve Hayne as the county's pathologist.

Bell said Hayne had been hired by 38 other counties and he wanted Attala County to be the 39th. He said it would be at no additional cost to the county.

For years, many counties had relied on Dr. Steve Hayne to do autopsies. But in August, Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson removed Hayne from a list of approved pathologists.

The state has contracted with Forensic Medical Inc. of Nashville to conduct autopsies here. The company is paid $1,000 per autopsy.

Bell said with the Nashville company, there is a three to four month turnaround to getting the autopsies.

The company rotates a pathologist every week to perform autopsies in Mississippi. The pathologist works out of the medical examiner's office at the state Crime Lab.

Bell added that the company's reports are also not has extensive as the reports were from Hayne. He said District Attorney Doug Evans' office was in favor of using Hayne.

I'm sure he is, given Hayne's reputation as a rubber stamp for prosecutors.

Hayne's typical turnaround time on an autopsy report was actually 6-7 months, though if there was a homicide that might require his testimony, he could get it all done quite a bit more quickly. When he was fired by the state last summer, he had a backlog of some 600 cases.

Meanwhile, it's been more than a year now, and the state still has not hired a state medical examiner, a position that's required by state law, but has been vacant for 14 years. Despite the apparent complaints from Attala County, according to the Clarion-Ledger article, most of the state's coroners and district attorneys thus far have had no complaints about the private firm in Nashville that has been handling Hayne's workload.

Browse my prior reporting on Hayne and Mississipi's broken forensics system here.