MS Attorney General Jim Hood: Forrest Allgood a “Straight Arrow”

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

Mississippi District Attorney Forrest Allgood has come under fire since two men he prosecuted for murder were exonerated last month. Allgood kept Kennedy Brewer in prison an extra six years after DNA testing cleared him, because he clung to the testimony of bite mark fraud Dr. Michael West.

Nevertheless, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood recently defended Allgood in the Columbus Commercial Dispatch.

“Forrest Allgood has been a straight arrow. He’s always played it by the rules,” Hood said. “I don’t think there was any prosecutorial misconduct on his part.”

He said any jury would have rendered a guilty verdict based on the circumstantial evidence and witness testimony Allgood believed to be true when he prosecuted the two defendants. “There was no rush to judgment,” Allgood said. “It was done as best as it could be.”

"Straight arrow?" The guy has now convicted three people of murder who were later exonerated or acquitted. In the case of Kennedy Brewer, whom Allgood prosecuted for raping and killing his girlfriend’s daughter while babysitting her, Allgood defended his pursuit of the wrong man to ABC News by noting there was no sign of forced entry into the home, and that there "cobwebs" on the window to the little girl’s room. Actually, the window had a gaping hole in it. Allgood next told ABC News that Brewer became a suspect because he showed little interest in the girl’s disappearance. Actually, as ABC News notes, Brewer joined family and neighbors in a frantic search for the girl.

So not only has Allgood not been a "straight arrow," he’s still not telling the truth.

In my article on Dr. Steven Hayne last fall, I noted that when Dr. Lloyd White left his contentious tenure as Mississippi’s second-to-last medical examiner, he wrote a letter to a local newspaper laying out his frustrations with Hayne and the state’s coroners and district attorneys. That letter contained an interesting passage about Allgood:

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, the district attorney for Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, and Oktibbeha counties. 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.

It would be bad enough if Allgood had gotten a second opinion because he didn’t like the state medical examiner’s conclusions. But it wasn’t even that. It was that he didn’t want to wait for the tests to come back, in case they proved him wrong.

Attorney General Hood has conceded that he himself used shady medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne back when he was a district attorney in Mississippi’s third district. That means any investigation of Hayne may include looking into Hood’s convictions, and may call into question Hood’s own judgment in using Hayne.

Which means that not only should we we take Hood’s defenses of Hayne, Allgood, and Mississippi’s forensics systems with a handful of salt, it means that any honest look into Mississippi’s forensics problems will have to come from outside of the attorney general’s office.

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7 Responses to “MS Attorney General Jim Hood: Forrest Allgood a “Straight Arrow””

  1. #1 |  Garrett J | 

    Radley,

    Even if we take the Mississippi AG at his word- there was no misconduct, any jury would have reached the same verdict based on the circumstantial evidence Allgood believed to be true, and there was no rush to judgment- doesn’t this indicate a severe malfunction in the system itself.

    If the AG wants to defend his prosecutor, that’s all good and well, but that just means that the problem is bigger than one bad egg.

    From everything you’ve written, there seems to be a lot of shady goings on, but just like all your SWAT forced entry work, the real problem here seems to be exasperated by guys like Allgood and Hayne. The root of the problem seems much, much deeper, in which our criminal justice system places a priority on prosecutions over the search for truth. Getting a perp in jail is more important than actually getting the right perp off the street. In a civil case, some of these tactics might be good lawyering, but it’s a huge problem in the criminal system where everything is already weighted againast the defendant.

  2. #2 |  Grant Gould | 

    The straighter the arrow, the more it matters which way it’s pointed.

  3. #3 |  Mississippi Attorney General Blind to Wrongful Convictions and Ethics | OpenMarket.org | 

    […] attorney general, Jim Hood, is praising a shady prosecutor who put innocent people in jail, calling him a “straight […]

  4. #4 |  Alex | 

    Garrett,

    In Radley’s November Reason piece about MS criminal justice, there’s an excellent aside by some guy about reforming the forensics system. I think they’re exactly the kind of institutional reforms you’re getting at.

  5. #5 |  TC | 

    “America is at that awkward stage. It’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.”

    Is it?

  6. #6 |  Lloyd Flack | 

    Allgood looks like a plain case of tunnel vision and unwillingness to admit that his first impressions may have been wrong. Keeping Brewer in prison despite the DNA evidence is a clear example of this. He came up with a contrived scenario so that he wouln’t have to admit to himself that he had got it completely wrong. In a civil case this would be desribed as willful blindness.

  7. #7 |  MS Willie | 

    This is sad! I agrre so much with the statement, we care more about making an arrest, placing someone in jail, than ensuring we as law enforcement really follow the established law. the citizens voices are no longer heard after election. Vague promises. I recently became aware of a very crooked scam including MBN and law enforcement in a few counties in MS. It just seem like a predator out to get a prey at any cost. So many innocent people are spending time in jail. This is sad, all because they could not afford the best attorneys or was not friends with the clicks of law enforcement. Wrongful scams, drug schemes within the law, you name it we have problems. Mr. Hood, be advised you were appointed to do thorough investigations, prior to sentencing. A man spent time for a crime, he did not comitt. the question is how many more, especially minority people. Are you really practicing justice for all. What do you say now, with this rush investigation? This does not appear to be justice.

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