Mississippi Lawyer Calls for Review of Hayne Autopsy

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

The lawyer’s client isn’t the most sympathetic defendant in the world (even by her own account, she apparently abandoned her kid in a public area, then went back to get him) but here’s yet more evidence of Dr. Hayne magically finding a prosecutor’s preferred cause of death where another medical professional couldn’t.

Note too this passage:

State pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne ruled that the child died of suffocation. Under state law, a petition can be filed with the state medical examiner, asking for further review of an autopsy conclusion.

But Tina Funderburk’s attorney, Hinds County Assistant Public Defender Matthew Eichelberger, said that since there is no state medical examiner, his request might be moot.

If you’ve been wondering why the Mississippi state legislature has refused to adequately fund a state medical examiner position all these years, the passage above provides a pretty plausible explanation, doesn’t it?

With no state medical examiner, there’s no one for defense attorneys to petition for a review of Hayne’s work. Meaning there’s no one to make sure he isn’t cutting corners or fudging his diagnoses. If you’re an indigent defendant and can’t hire your own expert to review him, you’re at the mercy of the court to provide funding for your own expert.  Which in Mississippi generally means you’re pretty much out of luck.

If you’re wondering why Mississippi doesn’t just give Hayne the state position, they can’t because he isn’t qualified. State law requires the official medical examiner be board-certified. Hayne isn’t.

So though Mississippi law seems to call for some safeguards to ensure the quality of autopsies done in the state, the legislature, executive, and prosecutors have found a way around them.  Don’t fund the office, and Hayne gets free reign.

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4 Responses to “Mississippi Lawyer Calls for Review of Hayne Autopsy”

  1. #1 |  Bronwyn | 

    There’s so much wrong here. Let’s set aside the obvious wrongness of a mother abandoning her child in a swamp and look at some other wrongness –

    Hayne said Tuesday he only vaguely remembers the case
    Well of course he has only a vague recollection. The poor man works his fingers to the bone *kof kof*! How could anyone so dedicated, who personally performs 1500 autopsies a year, be expected to remember anything?

    Grisham-Stewart said she continues to choose Hayne because she’s been comfortable with his findings and testimony.
    Of course she is. Why wouldn’t she be? I recall coroners in MS don’t need any special qualifications – the milk man can be the coroner – what are Grisham-Stewart’s qualifications, do we know?

    …said Sam Howell, administrator of the State Medical Examiner’s Office.
    Uh huh. Fascinating. An empty, unfunded office has an administrator. Does this empty, unfunded office also have the privilege of a receptionist and secretary?


  2. #2 |  colson | 

    What other lawyers think about Mississippi:


    It’s an interesting read with a couple of good quotes about the law in ol’ Miss. It is not all about Mississippi though so you may want to do a search through the text to jump to the money quotes.

  3. #3 |  Joel Rosenberg | 

    While IANAL, and all, that sounds like a pretty clear due process violation. The state law provides for review by state ME as a check on incompetent medical examination; absent the state funding one, it’s supposed to be the state’s problem, not the appellant’s.

    Yes, I know — there’s an element of “just how much justice can you afford”? But — again, I’m an amateur at this — the right to due process isn’t something that the courts of the state of Mississippi have an exclusive right to look at.

  4. #4 |  Heartless Libertarian | 

    I wonder if the lack of a state medical examiner to appeal to would create any sort of Due Process violations, either under the Mississippi constitution or statutes, or Federal ones.