Dirty Tricks in Mississippi

Friday, October 31st, 2008

As I’ve written here before, the most important election next week in Mississippi may be the race for state’s Supreme Court justice from the Gulf Coast area (Mississippi Supreme Court justices are elected to 8-year terms).

The incumbent, Oliver Diaz Jr., is the only justice on the state’s highest court who has gone on record stating that former Mississippi medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne ought to be barred from testifying in the state’s courts.  He’s also one of maybe just two justices on the court who seem to recognize that there are some fundamental problems with Mississippi’s criminal justice system.

Two weeks ago, a Springfield, Virginia organization called the Law Enforcement Alliance of America began running a scurrilous, false attack ad saying Diaz "voted for" two "baby killers" and a "man executed for beating a woman to death."

Diaz wasn’t even on the court when one of those cases was decided.  In another, he eventually voted  to uphold the conviction and death sentence of an accused murderer—he merely voted to delay the execution until the U.S. Supreme Court issued its own opinion on the constitutionality of the lethal injection.

The third case LEAA mentions in its ad is most aggravating.  It’s the case of Jeffrey Havard, which I’ve written about here on several occasions.  Havard was convicted of killing his girlfriend’s daughter based almost entirely on the testimony of discredited medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne.  Other, far more reputable forensic pathologists have since cast serious doubt on Hayne’s testimony in that case.  Diaz should be commended for his votes in Havard’s appeal. Because Havard deserves a new trial.

In a state where there have been four exonerations in the last 18 months (including two men wrongly convicted of being "baby killers"), and where mounting, troubling questions about the state’s death investigation system suggest there are likely to be many more, LEAA’s attack on Diaz is disgraceful—in addition to being out-and-out false.

Comcast agreed to stop running the ad after Mississippi’s Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention found that it violates the Code of Judicial Conduct.  But the damage may already be done.  The ads have been running for two weeks.

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20 Responses to “Dirty Tricks in Mississippi”

  1. #1 |  thomasblair | 

    Sounds like Grisham’s most recent novel. A special interest group tries to unseat the justice from Mississippi’s gulf coast district and put it’s own stooge in there. Overtly false attack ads are run. In Grisham’s novel, the bad guys win, so I guess art really does imitate life.

  2. #2 |  Ganja Blue | 

    I think that a populace that votes out of fear might be the quickest road to tyranny. All of the morning talk guys are on the subject of Trick-or-Treating and sex offender registries. The air is thick with hysteria here in the deep south.

  3. #3 |  gadget73156 | 

    The fact that DIAZ did NOT resign after he was wrongfully accused shows fortitude and INNOCENCE. The fact that he stuck it out speaks volumes about this man. As far as the ‘baby rape and murder’ case, that did NOT occur period. Steven Hayne and the court system denied Jeffrey Havard his exoneration by FAILING to provide a rebuttal witness to the now defunct Hayne. Any idiot could see this guy is INNOCENT. I know if for a FACT. Have seen the LACK of evidence Since his conviction, real State Medical Examiners have examined the state’s evidence…there is very little. They have concluded without a DOUBT that NO RAPE OCCURRED and that Mr. Havard’s version of accidently dropping the child after a bath is consistant with the findings. Had the hospital not taken 20 minutes to get this baby intubated then most likely she would have lived. They DEPRIVED her of oxygen for way too long. So yes, Diaz is right and HONORABLE for voting in favor of Havard. Or are you guys in Misssissippi still KILL-HAPPY even if the guy is INNOCENT…..nothing like a good Saturday night lynching is there?

    There are more disputable FACTS in this case. Facts in FAVOR of Havard. I can’t wait to see Jeffrey Havard walk out of that prison, EXONERATED and a FREE MAN! Then Mississippi can eat his DUST!

  4. #4 |  Mojotron | 

    Sounds like Grisham’s most recent novel.

    Maybe that’s what needs to happen- Grisham needs to write about these cases as if they’re another one of his fictional novels, and once people get sucked in to the story about the overworked public defender with the cards stacked against him taking on the crooked DA and crookeder coroner he reveals in the last chapter that it’s all true, is going on today, and if you want the story to have a happy ending then you should donate to the Innocence Project.

    Not that I expect Grisham to do this, but it would be pretty cool.

  5. #5 |  Dave Krueger | 

    When it comes to judges, the only thing that matters to voters is whether the candidate is “tough on crime”. That’s about as civilized as a lynch mob mentality is ever going to get.

  6. #6 |  SusanK | 

    I would be interested to see what LEAA’s true beef with the judge is. I doubt it is the cited cases – LEAA appears to be big gun rights fans.
    This sort of thing happened in Nebraska, too. The attack ads agaist the supreme court justice cited overturning murder convictions, but they were funded by insurance companies angry with him for expanding their liability. They just picked an issue that can be easily distorted and get the paranoid public all riled up.

  7. #7 |  Sondra | 

    Not everybody in mississippi is “kill-happy” or interested in a “saturday night lynching”. Speaking as someone who has tirelessly been working on behalf of a friend to bring the truth about her incarceration into the light and someone who lives in Mississippi, I can tell you that yes, there are some serious problems in this State. But there are citizens who care about these issues and don’t agree with the back-room politics that are apparent. I would love to have some outside help! Any takers to assist me?

  8. #8 |  Jeff | 

    …and this is why judges shouldn’t be popularly elected.

  9. #9 |  thomasblair | 


    He’s done this once. It involved the deliberate false prosecution of a minor-league baseball player in Ada, OK for a murder he didn’t commit. He received the death penalty (which triggers all sorts of mandatory reviews and appeals) and even the Innocence Project tag-teamed with his lawyers to get him free. He received large settlements from the city of Ada and the state of OK for his false conviction.

    So, yeah, he certainly has the wherewithal to write a book about shady justice.

    Given that MS is his home state (and all of his fiction takes place there), I wonder if he’d be interested in some of the stories that Radley’s covered (and broke). I bet they’d hit close to home.

  10. #10 |  thomasblair | 

    Sorry. Forgot to leave the link:


  11. #11 |  Radley Balko | 

    Just FYI, Grisham is well aware of Hayne and what’s going on in Mississippi.

    He’s one of the major funders of the Mississippi Innocence Project.

    Had the chance to meet him at their fundraiser last year, where he was keynote speaker.

  12. #12 |  thomasblair | 

    Plus, the real bitch of it is – the real killer (Glen Gore) testified for the prosecution against Williamson (though he was not a volunteer in doing so). He was even a suspect at one point. Police collected hair samples from him, but they were never processed after cops caught the scent of Williamson. A through-and-through deliberate miscarriage of justice.

  13. #13 |  Mojotron | 

    I am extremely happy to stand corrected on this matter:)

  14. #14 |  TBoneJones | 

    Lying cops and DA’s love lying medical examiners.

  15. #15 |  Nick T | 

    This is exactly why Judges should never be elected and certainly never RE-elected.

    Judicial independene from political whims and pressure (and tactics) is the final fail-safe for liberty and individual rights. Perhaps Mississippi should just focus on crawfish and producing awesome quarterbacks. They seem to have a lot of trouble living up to their membership in these United States.

  16. #16 |  Frank | 

    #6 From personal experience with LEAA, they are very much a “guns for me but not for thee” organization. They go great guns at getting cops more rights to own/carry, but they support the same rights for the rest of us with great reluctance. LEAA sees the judge as anti-police, and that’s all there is to it.

  17. #17 |  Frank | 

    Addendum to #16: Most of the membership of LEAA would also be quite happy if the Innocence Project was declared an organization assisting in terrorism.

  18. #18 |  gadget73156 | 

    I live in NC and we also have under-handed ads, etc which infuriate me as they are juvenile in nature and akin to small children hurling insults at one another.

    I do hope that Mississippi votes Diaz back in. He has the GUTS to take a stand and not give into the ‘good ole boys’ club. I have been there myself. It is an uphill climb.

    Diaz is just giving a JUSTICE SYSTEM a good old fashioned spanking. Guess one could compare it to disciplining a child…it doesn’t make you popular even though it is the ONLY and RIGHT thing to do.

    I also would hope that people will realize that simply because someone has been found guilty does NOT mean they truly are. There are many aspects to a case and events can be distorted in court. Look at the EXONERATIONS already achieved through DNA because someone gave the benefit of the doubt instead of sticking a lethal injection into an INNOCENT person.

    I personally KNOW for a FACT that Havard is INNOCENT as are many others I am fully AWARE of. I did NOT take the defendant’s ‘word’ for it. I did my own investigation. I am still reeling from what I have learned from CONCRETE EVIDENCE in Havard’s case, the Henry Moses case, the Tyler Edmonds case, the Brett Jones case and the Devin Bennett case. Dr. Steven Hayne was used as an ‘expert’ forensic pathologist in ALL of the cases. Hayne is NOT a forensic pathologist nor has he EVER been board certified. He walked out on the EXAM for the Medical Examiner’s certification. These are FACTS.

    The ‘big boys’ in politics have KNOWN about these atrocities since the mid 90’s yet continued to let Hayne perform autopsies and testify at trials.

    He perjures himself from the git-go by stating he is ‘board certified’ yet he cannot recall (how convenient) WHO certified him. So any ‘testimony’ spewing from his mouth afterwards should have been inadmissible…period.

    Diaz, thank God, was apparently aware of Hayne and is unethical practices and the controversy surrounding this man. Diaz took a stand on the side of GOD and that was to do the RIGHT thing and vote in favor of these appeals. He saw error and reasonable doubt which is part of the due process our constitution guarantees.

    “A man is morally free when, in full possession of his living humanity, he judges the world, and judges other men, with uncompromising sincerity.” George Santayana


    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

    Diaz seems determined to ensure HISTORY does NOT repeat itself. I think the he deserves a RAISE!

    And just for the record…Radley does too!

  19. #19 |  The Agitator » Blog Archive » Predictions | 

    […] a freshman senator. President: McCain by about 15. Should win, but may not: Cross your fingers that Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, Jr. holds on for […]

  20. #20 |  sullivan |