The Innocence Project today sent formal requests to nearly two dozen Mississippi officials, requesting documents that will show how much Medical Examiner Steven Hayne has been using state labs for autopsies that are clearly erroneous.
Hayne’s forensic misconduct has come to light in recent weeks, following court hearings last month where two Innocence Project clients – Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks – were cleared after serving 15 years for murders they didn’t commit. Hayne’s faulty work contributed to both men’s convictions.
Also today, a column in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal calls on Mississippi officials to reform forensic and legal practices to ensure that the innocent aren’t convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.
Aside from ending the personal injustices endured by Arthur Johnson, Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, The Innocence Project is also showing the state how it can do better.
For instance, the Legislature could add Mississippi to the 42 states that already provide post-conviction DNA testing where there's a claim of innocence.
Mississippi could modernize the Crime Lab, which is seeking a total of $9 million this year out of the state's nearly $6 billion general fund budget.
Mississippi could hire a medical examiner, who would be the first since the last one left in 1995.
Mississippi could expedite post-conviction hearings when new or additional evidence tends to show a jury has been misled, even if the evidence against a person was offered in good faith.
Read the full column here.
(Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 03/05/08)