Hattiesburg American Calls for Comprehensive Review of Dr. Hayne

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

The state’s second-largest newspaper says it’s time to investigate Mississippi’s embattled medical examiner.

And in pretty strong language:

Even if it means that all of the cases that Hayne and West worked on come under review, the investigation should advance. Even if it costs thousands of dollars and thousands of hours, it will be worth it if even one person wrongly convicted is freed or wins a new trial.

[...]

The Innocence Project should be commended for its efforts and the Mississippi judicial system, already under a cloud of suspicion from the indictment of powerful attorney Dickie Scruggs and others, should be ashamed.

I don’t agree with this part, though:

We also have to wonder why defense attorneys did not raise questions about the so-called experts’ testimony. Why did it take the efforts of a New York-based group to ask the tough questions and do the heavy lifting?

I might add that a certain journalist from Washington, D.C. did a fair amount of lifting in all of this, too.

And while I have certainly heard some complaints about inadequacies with Mississippi’s defense bar, there are several reasons why they’ve been unsuccessful in challenging Hayne.  First, the guy’s been getting certified by the state’s courts for 20 years.  It’s understandable if, after a dozen or so unsuccessful attempts to get the guy discredited, a defense lawyer might through up his hands, and conclude that he’s better off focusing his limited time on other aspects of a case.  Second, defense attorneys down there have tried to challenge his certification as an expert witness.  They get shot down every time.  Even since my articles on Hayne came out last fall, several defense attorneys in Mississippi have tried to file briefs calling for a Daubert hearing on Hayne.  Thus far, they’ve been rejected every time.  In one case, they were rejected even when they merely sought funds so an indigent defendant could hire an outside expert to review Hayne’s work.

Finally, there have been warnings about Hayne.  The state’s last two official medical examiners tried to sound the alarm about him in the early and mid 1990s.  State Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz warned about him in his opinion in the Tyler Edmonds case last year.  The judges in Mississippi’s courts have heard the argument against Hayne’s credibility as an expert countless times in civil cases.  Hayne also makes a lot of money testifying for plaintiff’s attorneys in medical malpractice cases.  In those cases, where the defendants tend to have the money to put up an aggressive defense, Hayne’s shortcomings have been exposed at trial and in depositions on several occasions. And the state’s best criminal defense attorneys like Andre de Gruy and Rob McDuff have been trying to call attention to Hayne for years.

Despite all of these warnings, nearly every institution in the state of Mississippi—the courts; the legislature; the executive; the professional organizations; and, yes, most certainly the press—have failed to do anything about Dr. Hayne.  It’s unfair to put this all at the feet of the criminal defense bar, which is overworked and underfunded.  Many, many far more powerful people in the state could have corrected this problem a long time ago.  They didn’t, and still haven’t.

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2 Responses to “Hattiesburg American Calls for Comprehensive Review of Dr. Hayne”

  1. #1 |  Tanya | 

    Actually, having lived in MS for long time, this seems unbelievable that a newspaper would take such a stance. Really proud of Hattiesburg. The press has a lot to do with it, especially the more local it gets. Maybe they’re afraid. In Tyler Edmonds case, I saw the judge put every last member of the press on the stand, essentially to warn them about being too sympathetic to the defendant. Meanwhile, the judge wouldn’t allow Tyler’s defense to do much of anything, but supported every single motion of the prosecutor. When defense attorneys are fighting so many different elements in a case (judge, prosecutor, sheriff’s dept., “expert witness”), it’s pretty hard to focus on any particular one. They have to play the hand they’re dealt and make their decisions moment by moment. I noticed that the local press publishes a lot of very personal and inappropriate letters to the editor about defendants but says very little if anything about inappropriate behavior of the people with the power. Maybe this is a start. Mississippi just needed a little (well maybe a LOT) of help from outsiders.

  2. #2 |  william newmiller | 

    It’s often difficult for local defense attorney’s when they have an innocent client on their hands. Most often, they find themselves advocating the best deal they can make for a culpable client, or arguing issues of mitigation rather than innocence. Much of their work is deal-making with DAs. So they’re leveraged into a system where for their future, they have to worry about their relationships with prosecutors. Currently, our son who was wrongly convicted of murder in Colorado two years ago is facing appeal. If a retrial is ordered, we’d not choose a local attorney to represent him for this reason, even though his local attorney firmly believed in our son’s innocence. His case is discussed at http://bearingfalsewitness.com. Mississippi is not the only state that has convicted innocent people.

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