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.