Oversight on the horizon in Mississippi?


The news on forensic science in Mississippi hasn’t been good in recent months. The exonerations of two Innocence Project clients – Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks – revealed false testimony and misconduct by medical examiner Steven Hayne and forensic dentist Michael West. The cases highlight the need for forensic oversight – and the consequences of not having a Mississippi State Medical Examiner, a position the legislature created to ensure standards in autopsies. The position has been vacant for more than a decade. During that time, Hayne says he has performed tens of thousands of autopsies. He may be using federally funded state labs for some of these autopsies. He has violated state laws governing medical practice during that time.

But there is some good news today. After repeated calls for improved forensic oversight from the Innocence Project, the Mississippi Innocence Project, members of the public and several newspapers, Gov. Haley Barbour has nominated a new commissioner for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. The nominee – Circuit Judge Stephen Sampson – says his first priorities will be improving the state crime lab and naming a chief medical examiner to fill the long vacant position.

Read about Sampson’s nomination here

. (Clarion-Ledger, 04/12/08)

Last week, the Innocence Project

filed a formal request

for Hayne’s medical license to be revoked. And a story published Sunday on Reason Magazine’s Hit-and-Run blog details

another possible wrongful conviction

in which Hayne made errors and oversights called “egregious” by fellow doctors.

This morning, Mississippi Innocence Project Director Tucker Carrington was interviewed on Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

Listen to the interview here


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