Cory Maye Update: Dr. Steven Hayne

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

Hayne is the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Officer Ron Jones after the raid on Cory Maye’s apartment.

Hayne’s testimony was crucial in securing Maye’s conviction. His testimony about the trajectory of the bullet found in Jones’ body cast doubt on Maye’s version of how the raid transpired. Maye’s current lawyer, Bob Evans, thinks jurors dismissed just about everything Cory Maye said after hearing Hayne’s testimony.

I’ll get into this a bit more when we start going through the trial transcripts. There’s also some misleading of the jury on the part of the prosecution involved, as well as some ineffective counsel issues with repsect to Maye’s first lawyer.

I bring Hayne up because the guy’s credibility took a serious blow this week, due to some truly bizarre testimony he gave in an unrelated murder case. In that case, the prosecution had claimed that two defendants simultaneously put their hands on the trigger of a gun and, together, fired the bullet that killed the victim.

I suppose that’s possible, though strange. What’s revealing, however, is that Hayne testified on behalf of the prosecution that in his expert opinion, the wound itself supported the prosecution’s theory. From the the Jackson Clarion-Ledger:

In last year’s murder trial of Tyler Edmonds, prosecutors argued the teenager, then 13, fired the gun together with his 26-year-old half sister, Kristi Fulgham. Prosecutors said in opening arguments, “They both put their finger on the trigger, and you’re going to hear how they both shot and killed Joey Fulgham.”

[...]

During the 2004 trial, forensic pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne testified it was more likely Joey Fulgham was killed by two people rather than one. “I could favor two people involved in the positioning,” Hayne testified. “It’s consistent with two people involved. I can’t exclude one, but I think it would be less likely.”

If you’re wondering how in the hell a medical examiner could tell from a bullet wound how many hands were on the trigger of the gun that created it, you’re not alone:

Judges on the Mississippi Court of Appeals questioned today how a pathologist can conclude more than one person fired a gun.

[...]

In today’s hearing before a three-judge panel, Edmonds’ lawyer, Robert McDuff of Jackson, called such a conclusion “voodoo science.”

Judge L. Joseph Lee agreed: “It’s impossible to testify as to that. If there’s one bullet, you can’t say whether it was fired by one person or three.”

I’ll say. It’s a bit like saying you can tell by the bullet hole what color eyes the killer had. Or that a very strong man squeezed the trigger.

Lexis and Google searches on Hayne show a guy with a very long history of offering testimony that favors prosecutors in murder trials, and that tends to exonerate from wrongdoing police officers accused of using excessive force. In fact, he’s described in a couple articles as a “longtime prosecution witness,” or words to that effect. Of course, that in itself doesn’t necessarily impeach his credibility — he was also an official medical examiner for the state of Mississippi for quite a long time.

But the case above offers at least a glimpse into just how far Dr. Hayne will go to offer support for the state’s case against a defendant. If the “two hands on the gun” case is any indicator at all of Dr. Hayne’s propensity to favor the prosecution, I think we have pretty good reason to be suspicious any time the guy takes the stand. I’m not certain about this, but I’d guess that it’s pretty rare for a medical examiner to be rebuked by an appellate court judge.

Keep this in mind when we discuss Dr. Hayne’s testimony in Cory Maye’s trial.

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