Criminal Justice

Good News From Mississippi

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Some positive developments this week in two ongoing Mississippi stories I've been covering.

  • First, the Mississippi Court of Appeals has rejected the state's motion for a rehearing in the Cory Maye case. Maye was convicted of capital murder for killing a police officer who broke into his home during a 2001 drug raid. (My October 2006 Reason feature on Maye here. Reason.tv's award-winning documentary on Maye's story here.) The same court granted Maye a new trial last November. The state now has 14 days to appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court. If they decide to do so (and thus far, they've give every indication they will), both sides will submit briefs, after which the court could either schedule oral arguments or issue an opinion based on the briefs. If the court upholds the appeals court ruling granting Maye a new trial, Maye's attorneys say they'd expect that at the earliest the new trial would begin in late summer or early fall.
  • Also this week, the Mississippi State Senate unanimously passed a bill that would require anyone hired to do an autopsy by one of the state's counties be certified in forensic pathology by the American Board of Pathology. The bill was a reaction to the news, which I first broke here at Reason.com last August, that several Mississippi counties were attempting to resurrect an old state law to bring back controversial medical examiner Steven Hayne (archive of my reporting on Hayne here). Hayne is not board-certified in forensic pathology by the American Board of Pathology. He took the certification exam in the 1980s and failed it. My sources in Mississippi tell me Hayne and the state's coroners lobbied against the bill. It's good to see that it passed so overwhelmingly.

NEXT: Mr. Brooks, Meet Mr. Smith

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  1. Oh wow, this is indeed good news. Well done.

    Jess
    http://www.fbi-logging.se.tc

  2. Damn you anon bot!

    Anyways, I’m very much surprised. It’s almost like my state isn’t shitty all the time.

    1. Yes, you need to come to my state – NY – to find a state that is shitty all the time.

  3. “”the Mississippi State Senate unanimously passed a bill that would require anyone hired to do an autopsy by one of the state’s counties…”

    It’s not a done deal until the governor signs it. I would not be surprise if the bill is vetoed. Hayne helps the state get convictions. Govenors love to be tough on crime. The people that provide the governor’s security love to be tough on crime, and those people have relied on Hayne in the past.

    1. I don’t know how the Mississippi legislature works, but I would think a unanimous vote would be sufficient to override any veto.

  4. What? No gut punch? I’m disappointed in you Radley.

    Seriously, thanks for two pieces of good news to start off my internet surfing day.

    1. This is just a setup to make the friday soul-crusher hurt worse.

      1. yea, like “He’s Back: Hayne Passes Test With Flying Colors (except for black),Qualified to Perform Autopsies Again”

  5. I’m still disappointed at what passes for “good news”. Really good news would be that Cory Maye is exonerated and will be compensated for wrongful imprisonment, and Steven Hayne was tarred and feathered on the Capital steps in Jackson by members of the legislature.

    1. I’d be satisfied to hear that Hayne was tarred and feathered, whether it was by the legislature, by his victims, or by a group of random passers-by.

      -jcr

  6. it’ll be more interesting to see if that bill makes it past the House. Barbour has the Senate working with him most of the time; the House is where you find the die-hard Old School Demon-crats. Those guys in the house would hate to see their Old Boy network crumble.

  7. good news and good job, mr. balko, in playing your part.

  8. Isn’t “a bill that would require anyone hired to do an autopsy by one of the state’s counties be certified in forensic pathology by the American Board of Pathology” the OPPOSITE of the “right to work”?

    1. There’s nothing wrong with requiring that doctors who are paid with tax dollars to perform autopsies and who then testify in criminal proceedings based on their findings meet some basic competency and professional standards. If the state is going to declare these people experts at trials that could result in prison time or a death sentence, the courts need to have some way of confirming that they’re well-trained and reputable.

      There’s a big difference between that and, say, requiring that florists be licensed.

      1. BTW, why in the world can’t defense attorneys bring up Hayne’s incompetence in court? Seems that they should be able to just read one of your articles into the record.

        -jcr

      2. I’ll agree that it’s a small win for justice, but I don’t think it’s a big win for freedom. The requirements are pretty onerous: http://www.abpath.org/ReqForCert.htm

        Steven Hayne is not the real problem, wretched though he be. The counties who used his services are. I don’t know what the best solution is, but this isn’t it. Perhaps reducing the power of the counties?

        1. Strict licensing requirements for those who assist prosecutors in putting people in cages or death chambers is a big win for freedom. You’re not getting the distinction between private work satisfying the needs of the market and public work collaborating with the government.

      3. Question: BTW, why in the world can’t defense attorneys bring up Hayne’s incompetence in court?
        Answer: Some have but, let’s face it, jurors are idiots.

    2. There’s a difference between requiring licensing for a public employee, and requiring it for one private party in an entirely private transaction. The former is just the state setting standards for its own employees or contract work.

      Granted, once you make that distinction it becomes even more important to keep the size of the public sphere as small as possible.

  9. Actually, the next step in Maye’s case is not an appeal by the State to the Miss. Supreme Court but rather a petition for cert. to that same court. If the Miss. S.Ct. denies it, that would be it barring a cert. pet. to the Supremes (unlikely; given my experiences with the AG’s office, no one there would have the energy).

  10. Terrific news regarding the Senate bill, but Mississippi still needs to investigate and reopen ALL the cases in which Hayne performed the autopsy.

    1. or at least the cases where Hayne was the only expert.

  11. Well Lorraine, as you know I have had a petition online for a year now to do just that…

    I would say that if people got off their asses and signed…but it doesn’t require anyone to remove their derriere from their nice warm seat and I can’t even get them to so that!

    Here’s the link folks:

    http://www.gopetition.com/online/25939.html

    Please sign if you haven’t and pass it on!

    Thanks!

  12. Judy,

    As well-meaning as your efforts doubtlessly are, in the real world politicians wipe their asses with petitions, particularly online ones which anyone (ie, non-constituents) can sign.

    Sorry.

  13. Radley, I think it’s highly likely that none of these positive developments would ever have taken place without your hard work and dedication. Great job.

  14. I know Tonio, but I STILL have to TRY!

  15. Be careful what you wish for. Is Steven Hayne bad because he’s not board certified? Or was he never formally trained in forensic pathology? Or is he just a bad pathologist overall? There aren’t enough board certified forensic pathologists to go around, so Mississippi may have difficulty finding one. And if you are lucky enough to find one, expect it to cost the taxpayers A LOT more than one that isn’t board certified.

    1. How much does it cost to imprison someone for a decade? Or pay someone years (decades?) later for wrongful imprisonment?

      When it comes to restricting the freedoms of your citizens, being right is probably more important than being cheap. (And probably cheaper in the long-run, too.)

    2. Cost was the last thing on the minds of the MS prosecutors when they started switching back to Hayne. From a previous Balko article:

      Why such elaborate support for such a controversial doctor? To replace Hayne, the state recommended a Tennessee medical examination company, and many coroners don’t like the change. “We aren’t happy with the firm in Nashville,” [Yazoo County Coroner] Shivers explains. When asked for a specific complaint, he says, “They’re unresponsive. They won’t allow anyone in the room while they’re doing autopsies. They won’t let any county officials talk to the medical examiner.”

    3. Cost was the last thing on the minds of the MS prosecutors when they started switching back to Hayne. From a previous Balko article:

      Why such elaborate support for such a controversial doctor? To replace Hayne, the state recommended a Tennessee medical examination company, and many coroners don’t like the change. “We aren’t happy with the firm in Nashville,” [Yazoo County Coroner] Shivers explains. When asked for a specific complaint, he says, “They’re unresponsive. They won’t allow anyone in the room while they’re doing autopsies. They won’t let any county officials talk to the medical examiner.”

    4. Hayne is not board certified. The reason the prosecutors love him is because he’s a whore. Mississippi had a great forensic pathologist in Emily Ward but the prosecutors ran her off because she wasn’t a whore.

  16. Meanwhile Judge Thomas Porteous has been unanimously impeached on four counts, thus proving that Congress may have a hard time approving judges, they can certainly unite in getting rid of them. (Although he still has to go to trial. I don’t think that will be filibustered if that’s even possible.)

    Porteous was appointed in 1994 to replace Robert Collins, who resigned since his own impeachment hearings were about to begin. So Porteous is upholding a tradition.

  17. Great job with this Mr. Balko, your efforts are to be commended. Let’s hope that Mr. Maye finally gets some justice.

  18. Nicely done, Radley. Cudos as well to those who have represented Cory Maye so ably since his conviction.

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