News 06.16.08

Why Mississippi needs a new medical examiner

For 13 years, Mississippi hasn’t had a state medical examiner to oversee autopsies, and a discredited pathologist is still conducting more than 1,500 autopsies a year – more than 80 percent of those conducted in the entire state. Steven Hayne’s fraudulent testimony led to the wrongful convictions of Innocence Project clients Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks in the early 1980s, and he has testified in hundreds of cases since. Brewer and Brooks, both Innocence Project clients, were exonerated earlier this year after DNA testing proved that Hayne testified falsely in their trials. The Mississippi Innocence Project is conducting a review of at least 70 cases in which Hayne’s testimony could have caused a wrongful conviction.

A leading Mississippi doctor said recently that the state’s medical investigations are in a “state of rigor mortis” and called for the immediate hiring of a state M.E.

"It is unthinkable that Mississippi has regressed in the medico-legal investigation of death into a veritable state of rigor mortis during the past 13 years," (said Dr. Dwalia South, the immediate past president of the Mississippi State Medical Association "We live in a world that now expects CSI efficiency, and we are giving them the wild West and Gunsmoke. For most of the past 34 years, no one has bothered to ponder its flaws until things have been grossly and irreparably botched."


Read the full story here

. (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 06/16/08)

Earlier this year, Mississippi lawmakers allocated funds to the vacant medical examiner’s office, and a new Public Safety Commissioner said hiring a state M.E. was a high priority. No one has been appointed yet. The Innocence Project has led calls for a new state medical examiner, and we have also formally requested that Hayne be stripped of his medical license.

Read more about our efforts in Mississippi here

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