Criminal Justice

Steven Hayne, Expert for the Defense

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Last month, I wrote a column about the latest developments in Mississippi's continuing medical examiner saga. In it, I noted that disgraced medical examiner Steven Hayne had set out a letter (PDF) to defense attorneys announcing his availability to testify for them. I don't know for sure how many times he has testified for the defense in the past, but the people I've talked to in Mississippi say it's less than 10, and likely less than five. (He has testified for the state thousands of times.) But the new law barring him from doing official autopsies for prosecutors doesn't bar him from testifying for defense attorneys or in civil cases.

And sure enough, the Jackson Free Press reports that Hayne is already finding business.

[O]n Dec. 9, Hinds County Circuit Judge Swan Yerger granted Assistant Public Defender Alison Kelly's request for an independent autopsy review by Hayne. Kelly represents Darion Givens, 18, who faces murder charges in connection with the June 13 shooting death of his girlfriend, Falisha Miller, a Jim Hill High School student.

In court filings, Kelly argued that a second opinion of Miller's autopsy is necessary to examine inconsistencies in the first autopsy, conducted by Dr. Thomas Deering. Witnesses reported hearing a gunshot, while Deering's autopsy suggested that Miller's shooter had used a silencer. Kelly maintains that Jasper Bell, who is charged as an accessory after the fact, was the shooter.

Kelly said this week that for Givens' case, Hayne was the "best choice for defending [her] client in the most zealous manner." While aware of controversy surrounding Hayne, Kelly said that she had not thoroughly investigated criticism of his work. Kelly did not seek out a forensic pathologist from the state medical examiner's office because she wanted a second opinion on work performed by that office.

"In the state of Mississippi, Dr. Hayne is the only (forensic pathologist) that I know of, other than these people that the state is bringing into Mississippi to do their pathology work," Kelly said. "I'm limited. I can't use their pathologists to do my cross-examination of their reports."

Hayne also recently testified for the defense in a case in Louisiana.

As I noted in the column, perversely, it would actually be good strategy for a defense attorney to hire Hayne. The sheer number of times he has already testified for prosecutors likely make him seem credible to a jury unfamiliar with his history. And in Mississippi in particular, there's a good chance the prosecutor the defense attorney is opposing has used Hayne in prior cases, meaning he isn't likely to delve into Hayne's lack of certification, his impossible workload, or the dubious testimony he has given over the years.

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  1. And in Mississippi in particular, there’s a good chance the prosecutor the defense attorney is opposing has used Hayne in prior cases, meaning he isn’t likely to delve into Hayne’s lack of certification, his impossible workload, or the dubious testimony he has given over the years.

    Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I can assure you that this man will testify whatever you want as long as he gets his fee. Just don’t ask me how I know that.

    1. Or B: There really is a God and he has one hell of a sense of humor.

    2. Ladies and Gentlemen, this man is a professional. A professional what I won’t say.

  2. I wonder if he feels like he has been scorned by the state and now is gonna stick it to them.

  3. Get a rope.

  4. perversely, isn’t Mississippi know for miscarriages of justice?

  5. An odd balance in the universe.

  6. “While aware of controversy surrounding Hayne, Kelly said that she had not thoroughly investigated criticism of his work.”

    Well, at least her client has a nice ineffective counsel appeal as insurance.

    1. Seriously. The first couple of pages of Google results for “Steven Hayne” are either Balko on Hayne, the Innocence Project on Hayne, or a secondary article that refers to one of their investigations.

    2. Ineffective? She seems to be smartly hiring a guy who is very good at convincing juries of bullshit stories.

  7. LOL, looks like money can buy you anything lol

    anon-web-tools.edu.tc

  8. Nothing wrong with whores

  9. Wonderful, he goes from putting the innocent in jail to helping the guilty walk. Meanwhile, he will be laughing to the bank.

    Still, I am curious about how prosecutors will try to impeach him and how judges who have admitted his testimony will rule. I really wonder if collateral estoppel could apply here. Probably not but it would be interesting to try.

    1. I don’t think collateral estoppel would apply sadly. But this kind of stuff has been going on in civil cases for decades. I am sure you heard the old saying in torts class about how you would never want to be treated by any medical “expert” who testifies in a tort case.

  10. The LA case is interesting. The state needed to prove that there was a murder but the article linked seems to show that they relied on a confession rather than physical evidence of a drowning. Babykillers are not sympathetic subjects but that looks like a story there.

  11. How cute.

    Reminds me of the elected official/lobbyist revolving door.

    With about the same level of corruption.

  12. So if “Wrong way” Corrigan starts testifying for the defense, what can we expect to happen there?

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