More on Coverage of the Hayne/West Video

Friday, February 27th, 2009

So as noted below, the Hattiesburg American and the Jackson Clarion-Ledger both picked up my story posted at Reason last week about a 1993 video of a bite mark examination on a 23-month old Louisiana girl named Haley Oliveaux. The video implicates Mississippi forensic experts Michael West and Steven Hayne in possible evidence tampering and perjury. It shows bite marks appearing on Oliveaux on the second day of the examination that weren’t there on the first, and it shows West repeatedly jamming and forcing a dental mold of suspect Jimmie Duncan’s teeth into Oliveaux’s corpse.

I want to focus on a few points from the Clarion-Ledger article, including a reaction from Hayne, Mississippi’s now-terminated Mississippi medical examiner who performed the Oliveaux autopsy with West, testified at Duncan’s trial, and someone I’ve been investigating for a few years, now.

Here is Hayne’s response:

Brandon pathologist Steven Hayne, who performed the autopsy in Mississippi, vehemently denies the suspicion that bite-mark expert Dr. Michael West of Hattiesburg did anything to tamper with the child’s cheek to produce the marks. “This is so patently absurd, it’s ludicrous,” Hayne said…

Hayne said the abrasion “was there before. It just became more evident. We see that all the time.”

If by “we,” Hayne means he and West, he may well be correct. If by “we” he means he and other medical examiners, he’s flat wrong. The experts I consulted with for the article say that abrasions form immediately after they’re inflicted. They don’t appear, or become more apparent, hours or days after death. That can sometimes happen with bruising, but not with an abrasion, which is what we see on Oliveaux’s cheek.

Moreover, even giving Hayne and West the benefit of the doubt on the cheek mark that appears between the first and second days of the examination, the last 20 minutes of the video show West repeatedly jamming the dental mold into Oliveaux’s body, over and over, more than 50 times. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single forensics professional—other than Hayne or West—who would argue that this is an acceptable way of analyzing forensic evidence. Those I spoke with called it criminal evidence tampering.

I’m also not sure about the explanation offered in the article that the removal of medical tape might have caused the mark on the cheek. Even if true, that explanation would still mean Hayne and West misidentified the mark as a bite mark, and you’d still have the matter of West’s violation of Haley Oliveaux’s corpse with the dental mold. But the problem with the tape theory is that in the first five minutes of the video, the tape has already been removed from Oliveaux’s face, and there are no visible marks on her cheek.

It’s also unfortunate that thus far, Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson seems to have no interest in investigating the video. You have to wonder what sort of evidence it would take for Simpson to begin an investigation into these two.

Here’s the most unsettling line in the article:

Hayne said he is now doing autopsies in Louisiana, plus private cases he handles.

So Louisiana coroners and district attorneys are apparently still giving Hayne work, ever after all that has come out about him in the last year.

My story in the April issue of Reason will address some of the other evidence against Jimmie Duncan that’s discussed in the Clarion-Ledger article.

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12 Responses to “More on Coverage of the Hayne/West Video”

  1. #1 |  Frank |

    Prepare to be denounced to the Gestapo if you don’t worship the Chosen One and his policies. No one is safe, not even a college student.

  2. #2 |  David | 

    You have to wonder what sort of evidence it would take for Simpson to begin an investigation into these two.

    At this point, does anyone who’s been following the case imagine that Simpson would ever open an investigation into these two?

  3. #3 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Anyone familiar with the way government handles embarrassments is probably wondering why there wasn’t an investigation clearing these guys a long time ago. I mean, isn’t that standard procedure? Get the internal investigation done ASAP, so the accusations can be declared unfounded?

    Maybe no one wants to do that in this case because it would be too implausible.

  4. #4 |  SJE | 

    What else would you expect Simpson, Hayne or West to say? They have been living the lie for so long that they don’t know the truth. This is why there needs to be someone else doing the investigating.

    As to the Clarion Ledger failing to attribute…Radley, is there some sort of legal action Reason could take? You have done a sh*tload of work on this story for years, and you/Reason should at least get attribution.

  5. #5 |  Judi | 

    I made DAMNED SURE the readers of the Clarion Ledger are WELL AWARE of WHO the CREDIT should go to!

    I urge ALL of you to call the state of Mississippi and tell them YOU are not going to take this CRAP with HAYNE or WEST anymore!

    Stop typing and MOVE YOUR FINGER TO THE PHONE!

    Radley, as always…you are the MAN and our HERO!

  6. #6 |  InFrequently Asked Questions | 

    Dirty Doctors…

    Video footage shows a bite mark expert planting bite mark evidence on the corpse of a 23 month old murder victim, using a mold of a suspect’s teeth, in order to match the evidence to a prosecutor’s theory.

  7. #7 |  Mike | 

    I still find it amusing that Lousiana is using Hayne. Even if they are completely corrupt and are using him because they know he will give them the answer they want, It seems a bit reckless and hurts their own case. How can Hayne have muche credibility with all the rebuttal information around. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him disqualified as an Expert at some point.

  8. #8 |  Lorraine Sumrall | 

    The Clarion-Ledger added a photo of West, and didn’t it change the part trying to lay claim to the story? Or is my memory off?

  9. #9 |  Judi | 

    I’ve read the comments on the ‘other’ sites in which someone is trying to DEFEND these arrogant criminal assholes, Hayne and West by saying you cannot bruise a body post-mortum.

    As a former paramedic who has handled many dead bodies I can assure you it does happen even if inadvertently such as in transport of the body.

    With a few clicks of the mouse, here’s something else I found.

    According to Dr. Robert Dorion, the Director of Forensic Dentistry at the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale, Ministry of Public Security for province of Quebec since 1973 an author of the book BITEMARK EVIDENCE, it can occur.

    Dr. Dorion says in his book “Certainly, if the forces applied are sufficient, blood is still fluid and tissue is still loose enough to permit graviational ooze of blood.”

    Ahem. No applause is necessary but I will sign a few autographs.

  10. #10 |  Rick Caldwell | 

    Is the entire bideo posted somewhere that I can view it?

  11. #11 |  Rick Caldwell | 

    bideo = video.

    I swear I’ve only had a half pint of Guinness.

  12. #12 |  Judi | 

    Yeah…sure Rick! Uh-huh…right…

    “Yes occifer, I am not as think as you drunk I am…I’ve only had TWO BEERS. On the hand, maybe I am too drunk for YOU to drive!”