News 02.20.09

Mississippi Chief Judge Aims to Restore Public Trust in Courts

Newly elected Mississippi chief justice Bill Waller, Jr. said this week that his primary goal in office is to restore public trust and ensure that all citizens have access to fair justice.

In his remarks, Waller singled out the decision to cut ties with former acting state medical examiner Steven Hayne as an important move toward building public confidence in the system. Hayne’s improper forensic testimony contributed to the wrongful convictions of Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, who each spent more than a decade behind bars before they were proven innocent and freed last year. Hayne has conducted criminal autopsies in Mississippi for two decades and has testified that he conducted more than 1,500 autopsies a year during some years. A thorough review of cases handled by Hayne is ongoing, and Waller said cases involving Hayne’s testimony were being reviewed "very closely" by the state Supreme Court.

"We're going to evaluate the cases one at a time. I applaud Commissioner Simpson's decision to go a different direction from Dr. Hayne," he said. "We must follow appropriate standards. I think we're moving in a better direction."


Read the full story here

. (Hattiesburg American,

For over two years, Reason Magazine Senior Editor Radley Balko has investigated the forensic practices of Hayne and Dr. Michael West, a bitemark expert who frequently worked with him. In a new report published online yesterday, Balko says new evidence shows that another man may have been wrongfully convicted and sent to Louisiana’s death row based on questionable forensic reports from Hayne and West.

Read the Reason story here

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