One name that keeps coming up over and over again in this Hayne saga is that of Mississippi District Attorney Forrest Allgood, whose district covers Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, and Oktibbeha counties
Allgood was the prosecutor who put Dr. Hayne on the stand in the Tyler Edmonds case, where Hayne offered up his outrageous testimony supporting the “two shooter theory.”
Allgood was also the prosecutor in the Kennedy Brewer case. Actually, Hayne performed the autopsy in the Brewer case. He then, as he often does, called in his pal Dr. Michael West to offer up some bite mark quackery. If what I’ve learned about other cases in Mississippi applies in this one, West “found” his bite marks on the little girl only after consulting with Allgood, and ascertaining his theory about how the crime occurred.
Allgood then ran with West’s bite mark testimony, and got his conviction. If it weren’t for the prescience of one of Kennedy Brewer’s attorneys in getting a court order preserving the DNA from the rape kit, the state of Mississippi may well have already executed Kennedy Brewer. But she did manage to get it preserved, and in 2002, more advanced DNA testing revealed the semen of two men in the little girl Brewer was convicted of killing. Neither sample belonged to Kennedy Brewer.
Now here, I’d like to think an honest prosecutor would be rather alarmed. Here it is, 15 years after the murder, and not only do the two semen samples taken from the victim not match the man Allgood has put on death row for more than a decade, two other men who almost certainly did rape this little girl have yet to be identified, and could well still be free.
Moreover, in the years between the conviction and the DNA test, Allgood’s star witness in the case, Dr. West, has been discredited by several professional organizations, and exposed as a fraud by several national media outlets.
None of this seemed to faze Allgood. He simply went about protecting his conviction. After the state supreme court ordered Brewer a new trial, Allgood announced that he planned to try Brewer again. The Innocence Project’s Peter Neufeld says it’s the only time he can remember that a prosecutor has actually retried a defendant after DNA tests revealed semen on the victim that matched someone other than the accused.
Allgood also announced he planned to again use the discredited Dr. West in the new trial, making him one of a very, very select few prosecutors left in the state who still have the temerity to use the disreputable dentist. I’ve been told by defense attorneys that Allgood still occasionally uses Dr. West in other cases, too.
It gets worse. Allgood still believed Kennedy Brewer was guilty of the little girl’s murder, even if he didn’t rape her. So he ran DNA tests on two men who visited Brewer the night of the murder, on the theory that Brewer helped them with the rape and murder. Neither of those men matched the semen samples, either.
One thing Allgood didn’t do was run the semen samples against the state database of convicted felons. According to the New York Times, Allgood says that’s because the state has no such database. This apparently came as a surprise to the state official who has been running said database for several years. Which raises a important question: Was Allgood lying, or is he really ignorant of the fact that the state of Mississippi has has a DNA database of convicted felons, and has had one for a number of years?
It’s one or the other. And both prospects are rather frightening.
The same article says that while Allgood notified the local sheriff of the DNA result, the local sheriff also says Allgood has made no request to reopen the case, stating definitively and (somewhat colloquially) that, “The case is already solved, far as the murder.”
All of which suggests that Forrest Allgood doesn’t care much about the fact that the identity of the two men who raped and likely murdered the little girl in the Brewer case is still unknown. He’s got his man, and he’s sticking to his story.
Allgood was finally taken off the Brewer case, and it was assigned to a different DA (who still plans to retry Brewer, and still plans to use Dr. West). But in one last weird attempt to preserve his conviction, Allgood actually objected to Brewers’ attorneys’ request that the semen samples be tested against the DNA of a man convicted of a very similar rape and murder 18 months prior to and very near where the murder Brewer is accused of took place. By that time, Allgood had been removed from the case, and no longer had standing to object. But that he would try to object anyway is awfully telling. What possible harm could such a test do, other than to raise legitimate doubts about Kennedy Brewer’s guilt and possibly catch the actual killer?
Then there’s the following passage from my reason piece on Dr. Hayne. It concerns Dr. Lloyd White, who was astonished at what he saw while serving as Mississippi’s state medical examiner in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
White left his position in 1992 with the election of a new governor. But he went out with a bang. Before leaving, he wrote a blistering public letter to Charles Tisdale, editor and publisher of the Jackson Advocate, a hard-hitting black paper sometimes called “the most firebombed newspaper in America.” Tisdale’s paper had been doggedly pursuing a series of suspicious suicides in Mississippi’s jails that many civil rights leaders believed to be homicides.
White himself suspected the deaths really were suicides. But he didn’t believe they were being properly investigated. In particular, he was troubled that the bodies were being sent to examiners like Hayne, who, experience taught him, couldn’t be trusted to give an unbiased conclusion. White’s letter called Hayne out by name, noting that despite his lack of credentials and poor practices, “Hayne continues to autopsy jail and prison deaths, as well as persons killed by police or sheriff’s deputies, and to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal income as a result of his extremely cozy relations with…state employees and officials.”
White also cited a case in which he had performed an autopsy on a woman who’d been found dead in her bathtub. White concluded it wasn’t immediately possible to determine a cause of death; he needed to wait for the results of toxicology and microscopic tests. According to White’s letter, he soon received a phone call from Hayne, who told him the body had been taken to Hayne’s office for a second examination at the request of Forrest Allgood…Although White was the state medical examiner at the time, he said the second autopsy was performed “surreptitiously, without my knowledge or permission.” Allgood already had a suspect he wanted to charge with the crime, White said, and “he was afraid my autopsy wouldn’t provide him with the evidence he needed.” (Allgood’s office did not respond to requests for an interview.)
According to White, Hayne told him he had concluded that the woman was strangled. White said Hayne then suggested it would be in White’s “best interest” to issue a report agreeing with him.
Allgood was also the prosecutor in the case of Sabrina Butler, an 18-year-old, borderline retarded woman convicted and sentenced to death for killing her infant son. The state supreme court threw out the conviction after Allgood illegally suggested to the jury that they could infer Butler’s guilt from the fact that she didn’t testify in her own defense. After six years on death row, Butler was retried and acquitted. Here’s a surprise: A bad autopsy report was in part blamed for her conviction. Hayne didn’t actually testify that case, but I’ve exchanged emails with Butler’s defense attorneys who tell me that Hayne was advising the prosecution. The baby was later determined to have died from a kidney disorder and/or SIDS.
I’d suggest that any forthcoming investigation looking into Dr. Hayne also take a long, hard look at Mr. Allgood, too. If his behavior in these few cases is indicative of his long tenure as a district attorney (and I’ve been told by multiple sources that it is), there are likely a lot of other convictions to come through his office that ought to be revisited.