News 08.21.08

Ousted Mississippi medical examiner’s alarming backlog deepens concerns about his work

Steven Hayne, who was recently removed from Mississippi’s list of approved pathologists, has 90 days to turn in reports on his backlog of cases. Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson announced the decision to remove Hayne from the state’s list on August 5, amid increased public scrutiny of Hayne’s work in the aftermath of the exonerations of Innocence Project clients Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks earlier this year.

When the state announced that it is severing ties with Hayne, Simpson said Hayne had “400 to 500” autopsy reports to complete within 90 days of the announcement. From the Jackson Clarion-Ledger the day after the state announced Hayne’s contract was being terminated:

Asked why Hayne's name alone was removed from the list, Simpson replied, "Because they don't owe me 400 or 500 reports."

Simpson said he wants Hayne to wrap up the outstanding autopsies within 90 days, when Hayne's contract with the state expires.

Hayne's attorney, Dale Danks Jr. of Jackson, said the only reason up to 500 of Hayne's reports are pending is that Hayne is awaiting toxicology reports from the state Crime Lab in the cases.

Read the full article

here

.

But information in today’s Clarion Ledger suggests that claim was false — and raises troubling new questions. Rather than 400-500 outstanding autopsy reports, Hayne’s lawyer now says there are 600. To put that number – which accounts for just the outstanding autopsy reports that Hayne has not completed – in context, mainstream professional associations say that a pathologist should not conduct more than 250 autopsies a year. Hayne has claimed to conduct 1,500 to 1,800 autopsies a year, a volume that could help explain why he apparently struggles to complete the critical autopsy reports in a timely fashion.

Today’s Clarion Ledger also makes it clear that the state crime lab is not the reason so many of Hayne’s autopsy reports are incomplete. In fact, fewer than 15% of Hayne’s outstanding autopsy reports are awaiting toxicology reports from the state crime lab. From today’s Clarion Ledger:

On Wednesday, Danks said Hayne planned to turn in the 600 reports by the end of next week, regardless of whether toxicology reports have been completed or not.

About 150 of them lack toxicology reports, Danks said. "He got one toxicology report in yesterday that was three years old. Apparently the Crime Lab sent it out of state."

Sam Howell, director of the state Crime Lab, said according to his records, there are only about 100 toxicology reports outstanding at this time.

"I don't know how many of those 100 cases are Dr. Hayne's," Howell said. "They could be coroner cases that have nothing to do with autopsies."

More than half that number are less than 30 days old, he said.

Read the full article

here

.

Danks does not explain why 500 or more cases (for which Hayne is not waiting for toxicology reports) are still pending – or for how long those autopsy reports have remained incomplete.

The Innocence Project investigated how Hayne’s shoddy work contributed to the wrongful convictions of Brewer and Brooks and is now calling for a comprehensive list of all cases Hayne has handled and records relating to those cases. The Innocence Project and the Mississippi Innocence Project have challenged Hayne’s work for months, calling on the state to fill the long-vacant State Medical Examiner position and also filing a formal allegation with the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure to revoke Hayne’s license to practice medicine. The Innocence Project is currently reviewing hundreds of cases in which Hayne testified.

Read Innocence Project press release on Hayne’s termination – and the need for the state to compel him to turn over a list of all cases he has worked on, along with autopsy reports for each of those cases —

here

.

Read more on the Brooks and Brewer cases

here

.

Read the summary letter of the Innocence Project’s pending complaint with the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure

here

.

Read more about Hayne in Reason Magazine Senior Editor Radley Balko’s groundbreaking investigative report, “CSI: Mississippi,”

here

.

 

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