Kennedy Brewer Sues Hayne and West

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Kennedy Brewer is one of two men thus far shown to have been wrongly convicted based on the testimony of the now former Mississippi medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne and disgraced forensic odontologist Dr. Michael West.  Brewer filed suit against the two last week.  Brewer is asking for $18 million, plus unspecified punitive damages.

As an aside, it’s really too bad that it’s so incredibly difficult to sue prosecutors, because Mississippi District Attorney Forrest Allgood should really be included in this suit.  Even assuming Allgood wasn’t aware of Hayne’s and West’s dishonesty at the time of the trial (and there’s plenty of reason to think he was fully aware of it), it was Allgood’s efforts to protect his conviction, his continued reliance on West’s testimony as the chief evidence against Brewer in the appeals process long after West had been exposed as a fraud, and his stubborn refusal to check the DNA in the case against the state’s database that kept Kennedy Brewer in prison years after DNA tests exonerated him.

Allgood’s obstinance in the Brewer case also prolonged the wrongful imprisonment of another man, Levon Brooks.  When the DNA samples were finally run against the state database, they pointed to a single man as the culprit in the separate crimes for which Allgood convicted Brooks and Brewer.  He later confessed.  My sources say part of the reason Allgood was so stubborn in the Brewer case is that he knew DNA testing would show he wrongly convicted Brooks, too.  Instead, he fought like hell to keep two innocent men in prison.

And of course, Allgood’s tactics also allowed the guy who actually committed the crimes to remain free for 15 years.  Allgood has been distorting his role in the convictions ever since.

But there will be more exonerations in Mississippi.  And more lawsuits.  And more than a few of them will be cases in which Allgood was the prosecutor.

For now, here’s hoping that Brewer wins back a big chunk of the money Hayne and West have been taking from Mississippi’s taxpayers for 20 years.

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6 Responses to “Kennedy Brewer Sues Hayne and West”

  1. #1 |  Anonymo | 

    Is there any chance this actually succeeds? I don’t think many of us know anything about this sort of law.

  2. #2 |  scott clark | 

    Do the docs have that kind of money? If they have a practice around forensics, is there malpractice insurance for this sort of thing? Maybe forensic malpractice insurance could be a good thing, letting the insurance company do the monitoring?

  3. #3 |  ktc2 | 

    I wish them much success.

    Hopefully, somehow they will be able to hold Allgood responsible financially as well.

  4. #4 |  SJE | 

    It doesnt matter so much if the docs have that kind of money: they will have NO kind of money if Brewer wins. Most importantly, Mississippi will have to reckon with a jury verdict against their long-standing forensics experts, and the mountain of evidence that the state was complicit in their evil scheme. To fellow readers who know more about the law on this point: does this make the state financially liable for its gross negligence? Does sovereign immunity cover gross negligence/criminal behavior??

  5. #5 |  ktc2 | 

    The horrid concept of Soveriegn Immunity generally means that you can’t sue the state (in the state courts) without the state’s permission to do so. So unless the Mississippi legislature makes it legal for the state to be sued in such cases, it isn’t.

    Now that DOES NOT rule out suing them in FEDERAL court if you can make a valid federal case of it.

    At least that’s my understanding of it.

  6. #6 |  Victor | 

    Yes, it’s definitely a shame it’s hard to sue a creature like Allgood (is that the most ironic name since “USA-PATRIOT Act”?)

    I myself entertain a fantasy, if we’re going to continue to suffer external governance, that in cases such as this when prosecutorial misconduct willfully keeps innocents imprisoned, that the prosecutors in question be sentenced to serve the same amount of had time as their innocent victims. And in the case of wrongful executions – give them the needle as the vicious murderers they are.

    And fantasy it is, and fantasies all such notions will remain. To the extent it ever really existed, the era of government accountability has ended. Barring political rivalries playing out, and the odd misbehavior that’s so extreme it just embarrasses the State too much (think: Nifong) government investigations will always find government minions acted properly.