Cover Story on Hayne/West and the Jimmie Duncan Case

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

My story from our April issue is now online.

Read it here.

Some of the new information not in the online version from last month:

–Discussion of Haley Oliveaux’s anal lacerations. Apparently, the only way to tell for sure if the lacerations were caused by sexual abuse is to examine the microscopic tissue slides Dr. Hayne should have created during the autopsy. He testified to having made and examined them at trial. But now that a medical examiner hired by Duncan’s defense team has asked to see them, Hayne has claimed, in turn, to have either lost them, given them to the Mississippi state crime lab in Jackson, or to have sent them to a now-deceased medical examiner in Louisiana.

–Discussion of Jimmie Duncan’s alleged jailhouse confession to a fellow inmate. Turns out, other cellmates told prosecutors that not only did Duncan never confess, but the police were trying to get inmates to lie about Duncan confessing. That information was never turned over to Duncan’s trial attorneys. And one lead investigator in Duncan’s case seems to have a history of eliciting false confessions.

–Information casting doubt on testimony from witnesses who claimed to have seen the marks on Haley Oliveaux’s right cheek.

I’ll have more on all of this in a bit. There are actually other problems with the case that we didn’t have room to fit into the article. I’ll also reiterate once again that I have no idea if Jimmie Duncan beat or raped or killed Haley Oliveaux. I’m not interested in retrying his case, or of proclaiming his innocence. The purpose of this piece was to shine a light on the criminal misconduct by Hayne and West, and to detail some very troubling behavior by police and prosecutors in the case.

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27 Responses to “Cover Story on Hayne/West and the Jimmie Duncan Case”

  1. #1 |  Zeb | 

    Radley, as someone who works for magazines, perhaps you can help me with a question that I have wondered about for a long time. Why do monthly magazines come out a full month before the date on the cover? I subscribe to Reason and the April issue came about a moth ago. Why isn’t it just called the March issue?

    Sorry for the irrelevant comment.

  2. #2 |  Edwin Sheldon | 

    Already read it in the dead-tree copy that arrived last week. Good work as always, Radley.

  3. #3 |  Tokin42 | 

    Add another to the amen choir, nice work radley

  4. #4 |  Bronwyn | 

    I read it in my dead-tree copy within minutes of fetching it from the mailbox. It was then passed to my father.

    Score two for outraged.

    Of course, dad isn’t surprised. He’s known for a long time that Mississippi and Louisiana are crooked. When I used to drive from San Antonio to Hattiesburg, he always worried about me getting stopped in Louisiana. The prospect always had me terrified, too.

  5. #5 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Two things:

    1. For me your site is loading really slow. I don’t know why, but it takes forever for it to finish and I can start scrolling.

    2. Over at reason the ads off to the side of each story are not in their box and obscure some of the articles text.

    I use internet explorer at work, and it doesn’t go away when I reload.

    I don’t know if anyone else is having these problems.

  6. #6 |  Lorraine Sumrall | 

    Great work, Radley, as always. I’m so thankful you take an interest in what happens in Mississippi even if the corrupt politicians in this state don’t. For the millionth time: every single case in Mississippi and Louisiana that have involved Hayne and West should be reopened in the interest of justice.

  7. #7 |  martin | 

    Hm, I have to head over to Patterico’s and take another look. Perhaps he’s now got it that your focus is the malfeasance of some officers of the court and some witnesses rather than the question of individual defendants’ guilt or innocence. Last time I looked he didn’t seem to understand that important difference.

  8. #8 |  SJE | 

    I think Patterico doesnt seem to understand that innocent people get imprisoned and executed, but sees legal guilt as identical to factual guilt.

  9. #9 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Hm, I have to head over to Patterico’s and take another look. Perhaps he’s now got it that your focus is the malfeasance of some officers of the court and some witnesses rather than the question of individual defendants’ guilt or innocence. Last time I looked he didn’t seem to understand that important difference.

    He has nothing yet.

  10. #10 |  InFrequently Asked Questions | 

    Physicians Found Furnishing False Forensics…

    The justice system is broken, and this story is a perfect example of how it broke.

    rate this: 
    0…

  11. #11 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Here is a paragraph from Patterico’s article on Duncan, West and Hayne:

    At Reason, at Balko’s site, and throughout the blogosphere, the jury has rendered its verdict: Hayne and West are guilty of evidence tampering. Seemingly, everyone reading this article believes that Hayne and West took a dead little girl with no bite marks on her, lied about seeing those bite marks in order to obtain a search warrant for a dental mold of the defendant’s teeth, took that mold and manufactured bite marks on her face, and thereby framed Jimmie Duncan for murder. Some of Balko’s fans are ready to throw these doctors in prison or even execute them.

    If that’s really what happened, the consequences should certainly be serious.

    What I find amusing is that Patterico isn’t looking at the larger picture. Here are some things we know:

    1. Brewer was convicted due to Hayne and West, but said conviction was tossed due to DNA evidence and the real killer matching the DNA Evidence confessing.
    2. Brooks was convicted due to Hayne and West, but said conviction was tossed due to DNA evidence and the real killer matching the DNA Evidence confessing (same killer).
    3. West’s methods have been roundly ridiculed and criticized.
    4. Wets’s methods demonstrated in the video are not in accordance with acceptable methods.
    5. The National Academy of Sciences is rather luke warm at best on dental forensics and, IIRC, the position is that it can rule out a suspect, but can’t be used in a positive manner.

    With all of this we then turn to the Duncan-Oliveaux case. Granted from a court room proceeding stand point most of the above might be deemed irrelevant. Problem is Radley isn’t interested in a single courtroom case, but the overall validity of the Mississippi criminal justice system–i.e. are Hayne and West responsible for bad practices that are sending innocent people to jail. To answer that question you need a broader perspective…one that Patterico is either unwilling to take or is simply unaware of where Radley is trying to go.

    This is why Patterico wants to “retry” each and every case on his blog with court transcripts and dragging in information that is really irrelevant to the issue (e.g. the anal lacerations on Oliveaux). They are irrelevant because Radley isn’t arguing innocence here, but whether or not Hayne/West are engaging in bad practices and possibly sending innocent people to jail. That is even if Duncan is guilty of raping and murdering Oliveaux it isn’t appropriate to railroad him into jail using faulty procedures, techniques and methods. Because it is quite possible that you think someone is guilty when in fact they are innocent. Or to put it another way, if you are 100% sure that a person is guilty and have evidence to back it up…you don’t need to railroad that person.

    What we have here is a mounting pile of information that says neither Hayne nor West can be trusted. For example, just the fact that prosecutors and police were present at the autopsy and met with Hayne and West is bad form. Why? It can cause bias. In fact, it could be argued it is like a job interview: give us the results we want and we’ll send you more work.

    Overall, when you look at all the information that Radley has dregged up it becomes more and more likely that Hayne and West are incompetent at best and are providing prosecutors with information they want deliberately.

  12. #12 |  ktc2 | 

    Of course Hayne and West are just paid shills.

    The big shots are amongst the police departments and prosecutors offices. They are the ones buying the railroad “service”. Even when Hayne and West are no longer involved they will find other greedy soulless bastards to do their dirty work.

  13. #13 |  tsiroth | 

    Zeb: The late dating of magazines is to allow the magazine to stay on news stands for longer.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periodical_cover_date

  14. #14 |  Judi | 

    Patterico can suck my…elbow. Pfft!

    It doesn’t take a damned rocket scientist to figure this crap out.

    Anyone that cannot clearly see that Hayne and West are guilty as hell of fraud and perjury are complete idiots and should be fed to the alligators in the swamp.

    Let West or Hayne figure out WHAT caused and WHO did the BITEMARKS on them!

    It IS what it IS!

  15. #15 |  primus | 

    #5 You might have a newer version of IE which is incompatible with the Reason site. Click Tools in the header, then if Compatibility View is black, click on it. A check mark will appear, and a small window will open which says Reason.com is now operating in Compatibility View. I have that problem, and each site must be checked off separately.

  16. #16 |  Sky | 

    Regarding comments #8 and #11. Patterico is a prime example of whats wrong with the justice system. He is one of those “hang em high” attorney’s who could care less about facts or actual innocence as long as he can garner a conviction. I’d be willing to bet he’d even use Hayne or West because he knows they can be sold to the highest bidder.

  17. #17 |  Lloyd Flack | 

    #16,

    You are being unfair to Patterico. I have no reason to believe that he would be willing to prosecute someone that he believed to be innocent. He will condemn abuses within the criminal justice system if the evidence of those abuses is completely unequivocal.

    The problem is that where there is any doubt either way he gives the benefit of that doubt to the prosecutors and police even if the scope for doubt is small. He wants to have confidence in them and he will use strained arguments to get them off the hook.

    As for forensic evidence, he wants to believe that it delivers greater certainty than it does. He wants it to make his job easier.

    His flaw is loving certainty too much, not indifference to injustice.

  18. #18 |  SJE | 

    Patterico’s other flaw is that he ignores important evidence contrary to his desired narrative. For example, his comment regarding this site misrepresents what Radley has stated about the relevant case, ignores that forensic experts have widely called West’s and Haynes’ activities malpractice. Of course, the prosecutors are a central part of the problem, which is probably what worries Patterico.

    Then, “some of Balko’s fans are ready to throw these doctors in prison or even execute them.” That is, Hayne/West are perfectly reasonable people who are being persecuted by the lynch mob. Of course, this statement ignores that there are already a number of people who have served serious prison time on the basis of the testimony of Hayne and West, since proven to be innocent. How many more? With Hayne/West there is,at the very least, question of perjury, a jailable offense.

  19. #19 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Then, “some of Balko’s fans are ready to throw these doctors in prison or even execute them.” That is, Hayne/West are perfectly reasonable people who are being persecuted by the lynch mob.

    What makes that statement truly ironic (Alanis Morisette call your office) is that Hayne/West are quite content to throw innocent people into prison or even execute them. Brooks and Brewer.

    It is a truly bizzare reasoning process. Most people would look at those two mistakes and think: Hmmm…something might be wrong there with those two guys. Then we see other evidence suggesting problems: 1,500 to 1,800 autopsies a year while working for a hospital. Incredible claims regarding the efficacy of a gimmicky procedure. Loss of evidence. Racalcitrance in providing evidence. But no, nothing to see here, move along, move along…anal lacerations on a child…move along, move along. Nevermind the autopsy where a man supposedly shot himself in the back of the head in a shoot out with police. Nevermind, anal lacerations on a child. After awhile the stench becomes unbearable to most people, but apparently not for some.

  20. #20 |  Steve Verdon | 

    1,500 to 1,800 autopsies a year while working for a hospital

    That should read,

    1,500 to 1,800 autopsies a year while also working for a hospital

    Here is the testimony that Radley dredged up,

    Q. Now how many autopsies do you in a year, please, sir?

    A. In a range of 1,500 a year.

    Q. 1,500 a year that you do yourself?

    A. Yes.

    Q. And on top of that, you also go to Rankin county–whatever the name of the hospital is–Rankin Medical Center here?

    A. Correct.

    Q. Do you go there every day or five days a week?

    A. Almost seven days a week.

    Q. 9:00 to 5:00 or 9:00 to 6:00?

    A. No.

    Q. How long are you there?

    A. It will vary. Sometimes half hours, sometimes two hours. It depends on what I have to do.

    Q. And then you have responsibilities at a renal care facility in Jackson?

    A. No.

    Q. Where is this?

    A. In Rankin County.

    Q. In Rankin County. You are head of that lab or whatever?

    A. No. Medical Director.

    Q. Medical Director. And you have responsibilities there?

    A. That’s correct.

    Q. And you do all those [autopsies] yourself? The 1,500 a year or about.

    A. All myself? Well, there’s a whole group that participate in the actual performance of the autopsy. There are several dieners and other individuals that are working.

    Q. A diener is a German name for helper?

    A. That’s correct.

    Q. But you’re the only pathologist that’s been doing those 1,500 autopsies a year?

    A. Those are the ones I sign. Those are the ones I do.

    Q. That you do yourself?

    A. That’s correct.

    The man is simply amazing. That kind of work load would kill an ordinary person, but not Hayne. A veritable superman when it comes to medical examiners.

    But remember, Hayley Oliveaux had anal lacerations and was in Jimmie Duncan’s care when she died, there for he is a child rapist.

  21. #21 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Lloyd,

    How many people have to be exonerated where Hayne/West testified before you realize that your assesment of Patterico is wrong?

    Kennedy Brewer,
    Levon Brooks,
    Henry Moses.

    Have you read about Eddie Lee Howard? The case sounds eerily like the Brewer, Brooks, and Duncan case. Howard is on death row.

    So just out of curiousity, how many people have to be exonerated where Hayne/West testified before you realize that your assesment of Patterico is wrong?

  22. #22 |  Lloyd Flack | 

    #21, Steve,

    “How many people have to be exonerated where Hayne/West testified before you realize that your assessment of Patterico is wrong?”

    The number of people exonerated has nothing to do with it. I said that I do not believe that Patterico would prosecute someone that he knew to be innocent and I have seen no reason to believe otherwise.

    Now, if you were to say that he is willfully blind and that he is far to reluctant to admit errors then I would completely agree with you. I think he is the sort of prosecutor that could continue a prosecution that he should abandon because he wants to have faith in police and others working with him. I think he automatically takes the side of prosecutors, police and those working for them when he should not. I think he focuses on specifics as way of avoiding thinking about systematic problems which would disturb him.

    I have quite enough reason to criticize him without adding additional accusations for which there is no evidence, and in fact evidence to the contrary. If you have two possible explanations of an opponents actions the one which attributes the worst motives to him is probably the wrong one. You are making the same mistake as he did when he made assertions about Radley’s motives.

  23. #23 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Now, if you were to say that he is willfully blind and that he is far to reluctant to admit errors then I would completely agree with you. I think he is the sort of prosecutor that could continue a prosecution that he should abandon because he wants to have faith in police and others working with him. I think he automatically takes the side of prosecutors, police and those working for them when he should not. I think he focuses on specifics as way of avoiding thinking about systematic problems which would disturb him.

    Problem is that this makes it quite hard to distinguish such a prosecutor from the type Sky (#16) desecribes. It really boils down to the mental state of the prosecutor. We could say the same thing about Forrest Allgood. Their intentions might be good, but as my Grandma used to repeat some quote about good intentions and the road to Hell.

    If you have two possible explanations of an opponents actions the one which attributes the worst motives to him is probably the wrong one.

    I’m not sure which is worse really.

  24. #24 |  Lloyd Flack | 

    The difference between Patterico and Forrest Allgood seems to be a matter of degree. Patterico can be dragged kicking and screaming to admit that his side has done something wrong. Forrest Allgood appears to be incapable of admitting that his side might be wrong.

    What we are up against when we criticize the criminal justice system is that many people will not recognize evil as evil when it comes from what they see as good intentions. They see evil as coming from what they see as evil motives rather than as thoughtlessness, as an absence of moral consideration. They do not see that good intentions, when they become obsessive, become the engine of evil.

    Patterico seems to be trying to make moral decisions the easy way by choosing sides. Police, prosecutors, forensic experts who take their side are good guys and what they do is right unless they are proven wrong. When you label yourself and others as good guys you are avoiding making moral judgments when they should be made, on individual actions. You have put yourself on the road to hell.

    He seems to want to revere the system that he is part of and tries to explain away and dismiss any evidence of systematic faults. He does not understand that there are people who are bad precisely because they want to be good.

  25. #25 |  Patterico | 

    “He does not understand that there are people who are bad precisely because they want to be good.”

    While I would normally defer to your superior knowledge of the inner workings of my brain, I feel constrained to point out that I can prove your wrong, with reference to a 2004 post of mine:

    The more heinous the crime, the greater the motivation on the part of everybody in the system to hold someone accountable. Cops are less likely than usual to provide possibly exculpatory material to the defense. Prosecutors may go forward on a weaker case, take more liberties with disclosure of evidence, and put pressure on witnesses to testify a certain way. Jurors will employ a lower standard of proof. Judges all the way up the chain, from the trial court to the Supreme Court of the United States, will strain to uphold the conviction.

    The more serious the crime, the more these factors play a role. And the greater the temptation to withhold exculpatory evidence. After all, prosecutors think, we know the guy is guilty! Why give him a chance to raise some bullshit argument based on this so-called “exculpatory” evidence? This is how critical evidence of innocence — including confessions by other people — gets suppressed.

    Simply put, the “system” is stacked against a defendant charged with a heinous murder. Almost nobody wants to let him walk — least of all the people in the “system.”

    Of course, this is not always (or I would say even usually) the case; I am describing a phenomenon I have noticed in some cases, documented in the books I have read about innocents on Death Row. As I note in the post, these books include “Adams v. Texas,” which was the basis of the documentary film “The Thin Blue Line.” Other good books covering innocents on Death Row include “Circumstantial Evidence: Death, Life, And Justice In A Southern Town” by Pete Earley, and “Victims of Justice,” by Thomas Frisbie and Randy Garrett — just to name a few.

    Oh — I see Steve Verdon is still up to his old trick of noting my suspicious lack of response during a work day. Doesn’t he ever get embarrassed by this?

  26. #26 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Oh — I see Steve Verdon is still up to his old trick of noting my suspicious lack of response during a work day. Doesn’t he ever get embarrassed by this?

    Glad to see you are so informed on the inner workings on my brain Patterico. Actually it was merely to be informative: Patterico has nothing up yet. Nothing beyond that. You did read the quote to get the context right? You know the part that says, “I’ll have to head over to Pattericos to see if he has….”

    My response: “He has nothing yet.”

    Simply put, the “system” is stacked against a defendant charged with a heinous murder. Almost nobody wants to let him walk — least of all the people in the “system.”

    And yet you have Kennedy Brewer, Levon Brooks, and Henry Moses, all cases involving Hanye and/or West where the convictions were over turned. In the first two cases not only over turned, but DNA evidence excluded the two men as the rapists and a third person confessed to both the rapes and murders and who had a history that indicated he’d be likely to commit such crimes. Yet you continue to try and salavage these cases. Why? Personal animus against Radley? Do you really think Hayne and West are doing good work in general and the three cases cited above are aberrations?

    Oh and there are the sheer number of autopsies. You’re a prosecutor ask some of your contacts how many autopsies a medical examiner should do in a year. If 1,500/year while holding down another job at a hospital is reasonable let us know. To me that number sounds like a staggering amount of work. Even if Hayne never takes a day off that is 4 per day. How long does a typical autopsy take, 2 hours, 3 hours, 5? Even if he is doing all those autopsies himself, I’m doubtful, I’d think that he’d likely be cutting corners and doing less than thorough work. If the police, prosecutors, judges, etc. are to be the good guys, you have to do the thorough work.

  27. #27 |  Lloyd Flack | 

    Patterico,

    So you recognize the risk of excessive zeal in the the worst cases. Are you on the lookout for it in the others? I am suggesting that the problem is more widespread than you would like to believe. It is the type of problem that can creep up on you.

    In many ways yours in an unenviable job. It is a necessary one, but doing it properly depends in part on the side of you which finds it distasteful. If your job doesn’t upset your piece of mind somewhat then you are at risk of going off the rails. I don’t know what the answer to this situation is. Developing blind spots about your actions and the actions of other prosecutors is not surprising.

    A police officer whose primary loyalty is to other police officers rather than the community is a risk of betraying the entire purpose of his position. Actual bad cops are a minority but far too many others cover for them.

    Mad-dog prosecutors are probably a minority in most regions but there is very little in the way of effective mechanisms to bring them to account. This situation is not improved when other prosecutors reflexively defend them. You seem to reflexively defend other prosecutors and people associated with them. You have a tendency to try to shoot the messenger when someone suggests that there is a systematic problem.

    There is a difference between out of control prosecutors and out of control police. Out of control police seem to be more scattered. With prosecutors it looks more like you either have whole offices go bad or you have few problems with an office.

    Do you accept that a forensic expert is not part of your team and that if they see themselves as such that they are betraying their professional standards?

    I wonder if the true harm of a wrongful prosecution sinks in? The thought should trouble and scare you. What do you feel when a case collapses and you realize that you should never have brought it? Have you ever abjectly apologized in such a case? Remember that an innocent person acquitted by a jury is person who has been gravely wronged by the court.

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