The national Innocence Project and the Mississippi Innocence Project have sent open records requests to every district attorney in the state of Mississippi. The request asks for a copy of every autopsy embattled medical examiner Steven Hayne has performed on their behalf at Mississippi’s state crime lab facility in Jackson.
Though Hayne is not a state employee, he began conducting his marathon, all-night autopsy sessions at the state facility a few years ago. In the 15 or so years prior to that, he did all of his autopsies at a funeral home owned by Rankin County Coroner Jimmy Roberts. My sources say Hayne and Roberts had a falling out in roughly 2005, leading Hayne to move his operation to the state lab.
So while Mississippi has gone 14 years without an official state medical examiner (even though the position is mandated by state law), the state nevertheless allowed Hayne, a private doctor, to move into the official state lab to conduct autopsies, despite that the fact that he isn’t board certified, and therefore is barred from holding the position that’s supposed to be using that facility.
The way the open records request is phrased is interesting. The idea is that because Mississippi’s state crime lab gets federal funding, there may be cause to call for a federal investigation if Hayne is doing fraudulent work at the federally-subsidized lab. You might actually be able to argue that the sheer number of autopsies he does on a daily basis alone amounts to fraud, or at least to a kind of de facto negligence.
Mississippi does have a notably stingy open records law, so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of compliance the Innocence Project gets. While researching my article on Dr. Hayne, I had a very basic, unintrusive request denied on bogus privacy grounds. But perhaps the Innocence Project’s high-profile will exert some extra public pressure and scrutiny on state officials to turn over the records.
The Innocence Project also has a nice summary of coverage of the Hayne scandal thus far here.
Finally—and most importantly!—my coverage of Hayne and bite mark quack Dr. Michael West made "News of the Weird" this week.