Video Shows Mississippi’s “Bite Mark Expert” Michael West Using a Dental Mold to Create Bite Marks on a Corpse; Implicates Steven Hayne for Perjury

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

My story is up.

Short summary: Several months ago, I was able to obtain a pretty shocking video of one of Dr. Michael West’s infamous post-mortem “bite mark examinations.” This particular exam was performed on a 23-month-old Louisiana girl named Haley Oliveaux. As with most cases, Dr. Steven Hayne performed the initial examination on Oliveaux, claimed to have seen bite marks no other doctors saw, then called in West to perform his quackery bite mark analysis. West claimed to have traced the bite marks to Jimmie Duncan, the boyfriend of Oliveaux’s mother, and the man police suspected of murdering the girl. Duncan was convicted of capital murder, and has spent the last 10 years on death row.

The smoking gun video damns West and Hayne in two ways. First, as it opens, West is performing his initial examination. The video clearly shows that when the body of Haley Oliveaux was handed over to West and Hayne, her face was free of any abrasions or bite marks. Her cheek is clean.

The second portion of the video, taken the following day, then shows a striking abrasion. That abrasion could only have been inflicted by someone in Hayne’s office. The video also shows that Hayne must have been lying when he testified at trial that he found bite marks on the Oliveaux’s cheek, then called West in to do an analysis. The first portion of the video, taken after Hayne’s initial exam, shows no such bite marks.

The more obvious thing the video shows is Michael West repeatedly jamming, scraping, and pushing a mold of Jimmie Duncan’s teeth into Haley Oliveaux’s body, actions experts to whom I’ve shown the video say amount to criminal evidence tampering. The excerpt posted at Reason is only 30 seconds long. But the full video spans 24 minutes, during which West uses the mold to desecrate Oliveaux’s body at least 50 times.

The results of West’s “analysis” were then used to help convict Jimmie Duncan of raping and murdering Haley Oliveaux.

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89 Responses to “Video Shows Mississippi’s “Bite Mark Expert” Michael West Using a Dental Mold to Create Bite Marks on a Corpse; Implicates Steven Hayne for Perjury”

  1. #1 |  Dakota | 

    One of the more clear cases of being framed that I have ever read. Wow.

  2. #2 |  ShelbyC | 

    Seems kinda funny. Why would they videotape it?

  3. #3 |  chance | 

    Mr. Balko, if the state refuses to do anything about this (and why would they? They were complicit) is it possible you or another organization (innocence project, ACLU, whoever) could bring this evidence to a federal prosecutor for a civil rights suit? Or would you not have standing to do so (if that’s the term)?

  4. #4 |  Ben | 

    Why would they videotape it?

    Probably it’s state law to video tape autopsies. Likely one of the few things that L&O type shows get right.

  5. #5 |  Cynical In CA | 

    “Oh, and this would serve as prima facie evidence of why the death penalty is unconstitutional.”

    Whether something is unconstitutional is for a legal system such as exists in the USA to decide.

    Something may be immoral and yet constitutional (e.g., taxation).

    It is misguided to conflate constitutionality with morality. Nothing could be further from the truth, because the U.S. Constitution is inherently immoral (see Lysander Spooner).

    The death penalty is immoral. That is all that need be said.

  6. #6 |  Danimal | 

    Holy shit, Radley — this is amazing stuff. This gonna get you your first Pullitzer? You’re changing the world, my friend.

  7. #7 |  Cynical In CA | 

    “Why would they videotape it?”

    Because if the State agents are not acting for direct personal gain and are acting in their official capacity, it has been demonstrated that they have full sanction of the State, irrespective of their actions.

    The details of this specific case bear that out. Videotaping is risk-free, for coroners, for LEOs, whatever.

  8. #8 |  Cynical In CA | 

    “He had no fear of getting caught, and even less fear of being punished if he was caught.”

    This is an interesting comment, Brandon, because it reads strangely at first glance. How could someone have less than no fear of being punished if caught? Negative fear?

    But what is negative fear?

    Confidence?

    These guys would feel more comfortable if they were caught? That says much about the State system. All of it is bad.

  9. #9 |  Zargon | 

    Oh ho, but it is, in fact, constitutional. The constitution lays out a system of government with the absolute and final authority on judging the “constitutionality” of it’s own actions. Therefore, just because peasants such as you or I look at a particular government action, compare it to the constitution, and call “unconstitutional!” does not in fact make the action unconstitutional. By the rules of the constitution, we don’t get to make that call.

    The only entity with the authority to deem a government action unconstitutional is the government itself. The government has judged the death penalty constitutional (as the constitution says it may), and therefore it is. End of story.

    Under the rules of the constitution, the government may do absolutely anything at all, and so long as the government judges do not deem it unconstitutional, it is not.

  10. #10 |  Brian Moore | 

    Wow. Absolutely crazy.

    You are doing very good work in exposing this.

    Thank you.

  11. #11 |  Danno49 | 

    #13 Zero –

    My bad – thanks for pointing that out. I tried reading the whole thing at the time but was just so fucking disgusted by the premise that I had assumed the worse. Of course, my sentiments toward the douche bags who mutilated the body of that poor girl still stand as written.

  12. #12 |  Danimal | 

    Radley,

    For the love of God, please tell me that you’re getting calls from other media about this story.

  13. #13 |  Scott | 

    So what’s the deal with the rape charge? I’m guessing Hayne and Co. manufactured evidence to support it in order to make Duncan appear even ickier to the jury. Although, given what we know about Hayne maybe he was just having a little too much fun creating his dark little fantasy and got carried away.

  14. #14 |  Threads from Henry’s Web » The Value and Danger of Forensics | 

    […] Balko has a story about manufactured evidence (HT: his Agitator blog), and a particularly blatant one. His story comes as the National Academy of Science has […]

  15. #15 |  Judi | 

    To Chris in Al: I know better than most that what you are saying is true.

    I am speaking of the fact that the STATE MUST re-open the Hayne/West cases instead of acting as though nothing has happened.

    They keep babbling about better forensics, etc…yet that have NOT cleaned the remains of the crumbling building they left behind.

    Can’t build a NEW house on that kind of foundation.

    Note to self: Don’t video tape your own stupidity!

    It’s ironic that these so-called ‘experts’ taped themselves creating grounds for perjury!

    This is poetic justice in action.

    Can’t wait until the finale and the credits roll!

  16. #16 |  Nick T | 

    Scott, I think that charged came from the child have a dialated orifice, but no biological evidence was discovered (e.g. semen). Other medical experts, I believe have stated that such a dialation is consistent with head trauma and not necessarily indicative of rape or penetration. Of course that just seems like an overzealous medical conclusion by prosecution friendly witnesses as opposed to all-out manufacturing of evidence.

    I could be wrong but I know I read about a case like this involving hayne and west somewhere. That’s my guess.

    Anyone seen any major media coverage on this thing?

  17. #17 |  jet | 

    Judi: Perjury? That seems to me to be the LEAST of their crimes at this point!

  18. #18 |  Marty | 

    horrifying. the question in my mind is, ‘what made them start manufacturing evidence?!!!’ Was it to cover up a crime committed by a friend? Was it to help a prosecutor lock someone up ‘they were sure’ was guilty? Was it for the thrill? Was there a race motivation? Surely, no one thinks this is the only time they’ve done this?!!!

    Spectacular job, Radley!

  19. #19 |  Euler | 

    What these two accomplices did they did with the knowledge that their actions would land a man on death row. If there is any justice in this country, they would both be convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder and would be spending the rest of their lifes inside a jail cell.

  20. #20 |  jet | 

    I don’t see any major media coverage yet, but apparently Hayne is testifying in another case.
    http://tinyurl.com/cczvob

    Maybe someone should call the defendent’s lawyers and point them at Reason??

  21. #21 |  Benway | 

    To Chance: a civil rights action is a long shot, due to the unreasonable protections given to prosecutors, and the fact that Hayne and West were part of “a criminal autopsy market in which prosecutors contract out examinations to favored private doctors”–i.e., they’re probably not state actors for civil rights purposes. But I have some free time, a law degree, and access to excellent resources. I’ll see what I can dig up.

    In the meantime, we need a publicity blitz for this article. Words can be ignored, or dismissed as the rantings of some lone wacko, but the video speaks for itself. It says “Hayne and West, your day of reckoning is coming.” If enough people see the video, it’s coming very soon.

  22. #22 |  Balko discovers something rotten in the state of Mississippi — FR33 Agents | 

    […] you think. Thanks for visiting!And by rotten, I mean truly disgusting. My stomach turned reading Radley’s account of a purported “forensic expert” faking evidence of bite marks on the face of a girl […]

  23. #23 |  Michael | 

    But by the grace of God…. I walked in on my daughter when she was this age,flat on her back, under water, staring up at the ceiling. She did not even cry when I lifter her out! If I had messed around another two minutes! Thank God I did not!

    The child, in the video, had no obvious marks initially. What a mess. Good work Radley!

    I, also, had to deal with a similar situation. I was called to the ER to see a child who was being given CPR. About the same age. She had become trapped in a playpen and suffocated. This was shortly after a special on one of the TV news programs like 60 minutes, that pointed out the dangers of the playpens. The child was beautiful. There was not a mark on her. She could not be resuscitated.

    The mother had another child, removed form her home, and was under suspicion after there was noted to be swelling around the brain, and in the lungs, at the autopsy done in the state capitol. Hell, we had beat on this little girls chest, trying to bring her back for an hour! And the sheriff had the nerve to do this, when it had been on TV within the last month, as to how the incident most likely went down!

    They are so quick to judge without good evidence. Looks like many are lucky that it is not made up, as it appeared to be with this with the bite mark evidence! Its like their attitude is “Somebody has to pay!” This needs to be stopped.

    I would think that tampering like this should require some jail time. But that is only wishful thinking! Where did they find the video?

    I missed the part on the rape!? How was that “proven”? Or, was it?

  24. #24 |  nwerner | 

    I certainly hope that Radley will publish a disclaimer on how this could advance his career lest knobs like Patterico launch another salvo against his good work exposing people like Hayne and West. Funny how prosecutors are the first to defend these types and the last to prosecute them.

  25. #25 |  Justice Louisiana Style « The NorLa Blog | 

    […] Louisiana Style Stunning work by Radley Balko: Several months ago, I was able to obtain a pretty shocking video of one of Dr. […]

  26. #26 |  Judi | 

    In your face Jim Hood!

  27. #27 |  Lorraine Sumrall | 

    Oh, Judi, I see I’m not the only one waiting for Jim Hood to be exposed!

  28. #28 |  Two--Four | 

    […] scores of murder cases that most likely ended in wrongful convictions.”Rogier van Bakel high-fives The Agitator, who has been dogging the impossible Haynes’ bones for a long time now. The latter should long have […]

  29. #29 |  Nick T | 

    Marty,

    I think this could be the natural endgame of cutting corners when you “know” someone is guilty. In this case no one disputed that Duncan was with the girl when she died. Most people would agree that he did SOMETHING wrong that is perhaps criminal. So Hayne and West very reasonably believed they were going after a “bad guy.”

    Of all the cases where cops, prosecutors and witnesses cut corners because they “know” the guy is guilty, this seemed to be a case where at least the identity of the culprit was not in question at all. Perhaps with higher level of certainty these animals felt like a higher degree of unlawful and criminal behavior was justified.

    that would be my guess as to why they did this. I still get sick when I think about this long enough. Why do I feel liek no one is talking about it?

  30. #30 |  Alex | 

    I’m leaving something in the tip jar. Your work is too important to not support.

  31. #31 |  Jim C. | 

    #34 | Steve Verdon

    Patterico also did not write about the price of tea in China, the location of the Holy Grail, or whether the Loch Ness monster and Bigfoot are connected. Very telling.

  32. #32 |  Mike | 

    I predict Patterico will double down. Prosecutors can never admit they are wrong. But it will be interesting to see how he defends Hayne and West this time.

  33. #33 |  markm | 

    IF there was a federal DA that was actually interested in justice…

    Tampering with evidence is certainly a crime (unless Mississippi is unique among states this way), and Hayes and West are obviously guilty. But that’s a state offense. OTOH, they are also clearly conspiring to violate Duncan’s civil rights, and that is in federal jurisdiction.

    Second, Radley has documented several other instances where Hayes or West appears to have tampered with evidence and/or committed perjury, both to favor the prosecution and to bury cases the prosecution did not want to investigate. IIRC, if you have probable cause for three separate crimes committed by persons linked in a conspiracy, you have a RICO case. They don’t have to be federal crimes.

    Third,with a RICO case you can drag in everyone that aided and abetted the conspiracy. That is, DA’s and cops all over Mississippi. They may be immune as to their decisions to charge or not charge, but not for knowingly introducing false evidence.

    Finally, you pile up charges so everyone is facing 200+ years of consecutive sentences, and start making deals. Maybe you can’t prove much of it in court, but given the chance of being convicted of fifty felonies and spending the rest of your life in prison, versus (say) pleading guilty to one small felony and cooperating in framing prosecuting the holdouts in exchange for a suspended sentence…

    Okay, perhaps not at all just for any actually innocent men caught in this web. But godawful unjust laws like RICO aren’t going to be changed until the great and powerful discover they aren’t safe from them…

  34. #34 |  Blagnet.net » Pulitzer for Balko? | 

    […] commenter to this Radley Balko post suggested he deserves a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. I think that […]

  35. #35 |  Kepo | 

    Does anyone know more about Dr. West and Dr. Hanyes? I am horrified about this….I watched the video…I always thought that it took a day or two before bite marks showed up, but that poor babies check is wrecked! Why would someone do this, any more info on these people or case?

  36. #36 |  Kepo | 

    How did anyone find this video? Why was in not used as evidence in the case?

  37. #37 |  Patterico’s Pontifications » Balko Acolyte: Patterico Maintains Curious Silence on Damning Blog Post for Almost a Whole Hour! | 

    […] minutes later, at 2:14 Eastern time, Balko acolyte Steve Verdon took me to task for not having written anything about it. Verdon argued that my curious nearly hour-long silence […]

  38. #38 |  Patterico’s Pontifications » Balko Response Fallout: Verdon Still Suspiciously Silent; Jimmie Duncan’s Lawyer Not So Silent | 

    […] Steve Verdon denounced my suspicious silence for failing to respond to a Radley Balko article that Verdon felt had showed me up somehow. The […]

  39. #39 |  Radley Balko on the Fabricated Bite Mark Forensics of Michael West - Forbes | 

    […] to me that these hacks get away with this for so long. It’s not exactly news at this point. Balko was writing about West years ago, and videos of his miraculous bite mark discoveries have surfaced before: Several months ago, I was […]