Is Dr. Hayne “Untouchable?”

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

A source in Mississippi tells me Dr. Steven Hayne is boasting to friends and acquaintances that he’s “untouchable,” because there has thus far been little fallout from my expose of him. We’ll see. I plan to do lots of follow-up over the next year, and there are still some wheels turning down there.

But this email from someone involved with a case in which Dr. Hayne testified captures part of the problem:

Forgive me, but I feel like I’m going a little nuts here. Why in the world do you suppose the Mississippi press did NOT pick up on your WJ article and publish ANYTHING about the totally UNBELIEVABLE nightmare/nonsense concerning the state’s lack of a medical examiner and the complete chaos that has resulted?

I’m really wondering what is going on. I mentioned this to one reporter who was kind enough to e-mail from the Columbus Commercial Dispatch, but he stopped e-mailing when I posed the Hayne coverage question. He indicated that he was aware of your article but would not answer my question about why no MS press coverage.

As far as I’m concerned, the MS press has a responsibility to inform the public, and if they aren’t going to do it, they are as much a part of the problem as the legislature.

If you have any idea why they aren’t covering your story, please let me know.

I have my suspicions. I’ve had reporters from both the Jackson Clarion Ledger and the Jackson Free Press contact me to say they’re working on stories about Hayne. But that was more than six weeks ago. And when I called both back, they never got back to me. The Jackson TV station that initially covered the Hayne story when it came out in the Wall Street Journal was supposed to do some follow-up as well, but then apparently decided against it. Same with the statewide radio station that did an interview with me shortly after the WSJ piece appeared. They were planning a big, hour-long special on Hayne, but then decided against it.

What’s behind all of this? I don’t know. No one that I know of in Mississippi has raised a single complaint about the story’s accuracy (other than Hayne, of course, who issued a couple of vague, unsupported denials in the local news piece). So the only explanation I can think of is that they know the allegations against Hayne, accept them, and don’t think they’re serious enough to merit further coverage.

Now, this could just be general lethargy on the part of the state’s media. Or it could be something more sinister. It’s hard to imagine many statewide stories more worthy of print space or air time. This guy’s been corrupting the state’s criminal justice system for 20 years. He’s likely put innocent people in prison, and allowed guilty people to go free. But Hayne’s a very powerful man in Mississippi. It’s one reason why he’s been able to thrive down there, despite numerous complaints about his methods, practices, and objectivity.

On the plus side, I do know that there will be dozens of complaints against Hayne playing out in the state’s courts over the next year or so. And I know of a couple of legislators who plan to at least try to make some noise about him in the state house. Over the coming months, I’ll be contacting state officials and office holders in Mississippi, as well as the professional groups where Hayne claims membership. I’ll ask them to respond to the article and, if they’ve already seen it, either explain what they plan to do about Hayne, or explain why they plan to do nothing.

In the meantime, Hayne’s still doing autopsies in Mississippi, and still testifying in court. One source tells me he defiantly performed 16 autopsies in a single night last month.

But thus far, Hayne may well be right. He may be “untouchable.” Too bad for Mississippi.

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6 Responses to “Is Dr. Hayne “Untouchable?””

  1. #1 |  Mappo | 

    I would suspect the Mississippi media’s reluctance has much to do with his reported litigious nature.

  2. #2 |  livingpre9/11still | 

    This happens when someone of real power in the state whispers to the media to keep a lid on it. Hayne evidently has friends in high places (state ag?) or more likely, fortunately for him are really plugging the leaky damn for the sake of preventing all the reprecussions of puting innocents in jail and saving his sorry butt is a byproduct of that desire.

  3. #3 |  MikeT | 

    Or it could be just another example of the mainstream media being irresponsible, Mappo. They probably don’t want to sacrifice their contacts in the state government.

  4. #4 |  Persona non grata | 

    Whats the tussle? With Hayne the system is corrupt without Hayne the system is corrupt. You get back from the system what you put into the system. It looks like the the good people of Mississippi just don’t give a damn about justice or remedies.

    fiat iustitia et pereat mundus

  5. #5 |  Donna Ladd | 

    Speaking only for the Jackson Free Press, which I edit and own, I can say that the conspiracy theories don’t apply to us. Our reasoning has only to do with my one reporter being overwhelmed with stories on this end (including coverage of a city gone haywire). We still have Dr. Hayne on our radar, but a story that another media outlet (Reason) is doing a good job on is not as high priority for us as the stories here that no one is covering. That doesn’t mean we won’t pursue it; it’s just the reality of being a small newspaper with a lot on our plate.

    Now, the other media I can’t speak for, especially the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger. They’ve been around much longer, have greater resources and should have been interested in this story a long time ago. Same goes for many other untold stories here.

    Again, great job on your Mississippi stories, Radley.

  6. #6 |  Radley Balko | 

    Thanks for stopping by, Donna.

    Didn’t realize you only had one reporter.

    But yeah, I’m a little more perplexed by the C-L. Reporters there tell me they’ve known about Hayne for years, and just never got around to writing anything. So I guess it shouldn’t be surprising.