Mississippi AG Jim Hood Still Actively Supporting Steven Hayne

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Yesterday, I reported that the Mississippi State Senate had unanimously passed a bill that would require anyone hired to do an autopsy by one of the state’s counties be certified in forensic pathology by the American Board of Pathology. The bill was a reaction to the news that several Mississippi counties were attempting to resurrect an old state law to bring back controversial medical examiner Steven Hayne, who isn’t board certified.

The bill now heads to the Mississippi House, where it look like it may face some opposition. After the bill passed the Senate, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who frequently used Hayne during his time as a district attorney, sent the following email to the state’s representatives:

Dear Friends,

Please be advised House Bill 1456 amends Section 41-61-65 and allows the Department of Public Safety to appoint a Pathologist which must be qualified to perform post-mortem examinations.  Further, this bill requires the Pathologist be an M.D. or D.O. who is certified in Forensic Pathology by the American Board of Pathology.  This is an Innocence Project bill which threatens cases which involved Dr. Hayne. This bill has passed the Senate and is headed to the House of Representatives.  Please contact your House Member and encourage him or her to defeat this bill. Our office is working diligently to stop this potentially harmful legislation.


Jim

Jim Hood
Mississippi Attorney General

As I reported last summer, it was Hood’s office that issued an opinion allowing Mississippi coroners to resurrect an old law that would allow them to circumvent the Mississippi Department of Public Safety’s termination of Hayne in 2008.

Hood’s email is striking for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a pretty straightforward and unapologetic defense of Hayne, and an indication that so long as Hood is in office, there will be no serious review of old cases to find other potentially innocent people convicted by Hayne’s testimony.

Second, certification in a medical specialty by the American Board is standard throughout the medical profession. It displays a basic level of competency. Most hospitals won’t hire a doctor who hasn’t been certified by the American Board. It’s a pretty minimal requirement to ask of the doctors whose testimony will be used in criminal proceedings. In fact, under Mississippi law the state medical examiner is already required to be certified by the American Board. Since 1995, Hayne, the coroners, and the Mississippi legislature have gotten around the law by simply not hiring a state medical examiner. With no official state medical examiner, Hayne was then allowed to handle so many autopsies on a contractual basis that he effectively held the position in every way but having it printed on his business cards.

Third, Hood is fighting his state’s Department of Public Safety and State Senate to bring back a doctor whose testimony has already led to the murder convictions of two innocent men, whose laughable testimony was thrown out of court (PDF) in a third murder case, and who has been roundly condemned by nearly every other medical examiner outside the state of Mississippi who is familiar with his work. (I’ve talked to at least 13.)

Finally, Hood’s email is factually inaccurate. The bill would not address prior cases involving Hayne, as Hood implies by using the past tense of the word “involve.” It merely prevents Hayne from doing any autopsies in the future. Either Hood hasn’t actually read the bill, or he’s trying to drum up opposition by deliberately exaggerating its scope, implying that it would reopen thousands of old cases. Mississippi really should look at all of those cases, but that isn’t what this bill does.

Hood not only has a complete and utter lack of shame about the damage Hayne has already done to Mississippi’s criminal justice system, he now seems determined to make sure Hayne can continue to do more.

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40 Responses to “Mississippi AG Jim Hood Still Actively Supporting Steven Hayne”

  1. #1 |  Aresen | 

    “Further, this bill requires the Pathologist be an M.D. or D.O. who is certified in Forensic Pathology by the American Board of Pathology. This is an Innocence Project bill which threatens cases which involved Dr. Hayne.”

    Please tell us, Mr Hood, just why is Dr Hayne NOT certified?

  2. #2 |  Kristen | 

    Department of Public Safety to appoint a Pathologist which must be qualified to perform post-mortem examinations. Further, this bill requires the Pathologist be an M.D. or D.O. who is certified in Forensic Pathology by the American Board of Pathology.

    Yeah, it’s like requiring a commercial pilot to have a license before flying passengers all over the place!

  3. #3 |  SJE | 

    Interesting how “tough on crime” never means tough on the crimes of Steven Hayne.

  4. #4 |  MikeZ | 

    I’m not in the medical profession so something has me wondering why Hayne just doesn’t take the exam? Are there strings attached to maintaining your certification or is it just the test?

    Certainly certification exams can be challenging for a student just graduating, but even with some incompetence on Haynes part being in the industry for 20+ years shouldn’t the exam then be pretty easy? Or is the fear if he takes it and actually manages to fail it it really would kill his career.

  5. #5 |  Aresen | 

    MikeZ

    IIRC, Radley has reported that Hayne failed the exam.

  6. #6 |  pam | 

    And both the MSC and the MCOA have gone out of their way to back Hayne up. In Edmonds they threw out his speculative testimony, but went on to state : “Dr. Hayne is qualified to proffer expert opinions in forensic pathology”. In other words, just becasue he’s not credible here (in the case of a 13 year old 6th grader facing life), doesn’t mean he’s not credible in the next case or 2. How can one be both credible and not credible? Espcially someone with the kind of weight he throws around?

    From the Maye COA opinion: …”Because we find that Dr. Hayne did not misrepresent his qualifications as an expert in forensic pathology…..”

    But he has made a habit of misrepresenting his qualifications! How can they even say this? It’s fraud and it shows that he’s a liar which shows that he can’t be trusted which shows he has no credibility and people’s lives are at state. I find this to be incredible. Although I’m very happy they overturned Maye’s conviction, the section on Hayne which begins on page 7, is quite precious and puzzling.

  7. #7 |  Trent McBride | 

    “certification in a medical specialty by the American Board is standard throughout the medical profession.”

    Just to be clear, this is true, however, the relevant specialty here is “pathology” and not necessarily “forensic pathology”, which is a sub-specialty certification offered by the ABP (American Board of Pathology). It is possible for someone to be certified by the ABP in anatomic pathology, not further certified in forensic pathology, and yet still competently practice forensic pathology. For instance, I am currently seeking certification in hematopathology, yet this is not required for me to practice hematopathology (just desired by potential employers). Indeed, I would venture to say that a significant amount of, if not a majority of, hematopathology cases are signed out by pathologist without sub-specialty certification. And this is not a scandal.

    Now, forensic pathology may be a little different, in that most forensic pathology is handled by state MEs, which to a much larger extent will be sub-specialty certified. But certainly not all (at least, some may be practicing while still pursuing final certification), and I would like to know whether Hayne has any certification at all from the ABP (in anatomic or clinical pathology) before I passed judgment here.

    Of course, this is not meant as a defense in any way of Hayne or his actions. That guy has got to go just for seeming incompetence, regardless of what any board says. I just want to state that it may not be quite analogous to a non-licensed doctor or pilot, as some may have described.

    So, Radley, can you tell us if Hayne has any certificate from the ABP at all?

  8. #8 |  MacGregory | 

    Interesting how he specifically cited the Innocence Project as if it were a bad thing.

  9. #9 |  pam | 

    http://www.mssc.state.ms.us/images/Opinions/CO59522.pdf

    Pages 7-11 Testimony of the State’s Expert in Forensic Pathology.

    take your meds first.

  10. #10 |  Andrew Williams | 

    As my hero Bugs Bunny would say in re Mr Hood, “What a maroon!”

  11. #11 |  pam | 

    “Interesting how he specifically cited the Innocence Project as if it were a bad thing.”

    Mac, that’s because they aren’t really innocent. (wink, wink)

  12. #12 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “Hood not only has a complete and utter lack of shame about the damage Hayne has already done to Mississippi’s criminal justice system, he now seems determined to make sure Hayne can continue to do more.”

    True enough, but I’m dead certain Hood is getting some direct financial compensation from Hayne too, else why would he go out on such a public limb for Hayne? Plus, I bet Hayne has some pretty serious dirt on Hood too — after all, he knows where the bodies are buried!

    There’s a poll on Yahoo now regarding which State readers perceive is the most corrupt. Granting the dubious premise that variance in degree of corruption matters in any material way, I would think that Mississippi leads the way like Secretariat led the ’73 Derby.

  13. #13 |  Radley Balko | 

    Trent –

    Hayne is certified in clinical pathology. He took the exam for forensic pathology, failed it, and has refused to take it again.

    As I understand it, nearly all states require their state medical examiners (some states have one, others have several) to be certified in forensic pathology, even though it’s a subspecialty. When I’ve asked other MEs about Hayne, the first thing they’d tell me is that he isn’t board certified. So it seems to be a subspecialty where certification is more important.

  14. #14 |  Aresen | 

    MacGregory | March 12th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Interesting how he specifically cited the Innocence Project as if it were a bad thing.

    I noticed that, too. Course, in Hood’s mind EVERYBODY is probably guilty.

  15. #15 |  Judi | 

    Hey, I am a former paramedic, so do you think Jim would consider me qualified to be a BRAIN SURGEON$$$$? I’m submitting my application today!

  16. #16 |  Trent McBride | 

    Thanks, Radley.

    No doubt, FP is going to rely on certification more than other sub-specialties, by it’s nature, since it is closely related to the state, and since it requires more specialty knowledge than other parts of pathology, which overlap a lot. For the record, I would support the effort of the MS legislature here, though it would be much more scandalous if Hayne had no certification in pathology whatsoever.

    Regardless, his incompetence, as documented here in detail, stands on its own.

  17. #17 |  Judi | 

    I was going to say then I could perform brain surgery on Hood, Hayne and a few others in Mississippi but then you can’t operate on something that isn’t there to begin with.

    Drats! I’m sad now.

  18. #18 |  SJE | 

    Merely proffering on the stand as “Dr. Hayne” is an implicit vouch for his credibility. The real shame lies in the prosecutor, who should be disciplined for bringing disrepute on the court.

  19. #19 |  Sky | 

    Hood is a complete and utter ASS!

  20. #20 |  MikeZ | 

    Arensen,
    Oh I know he took it and failed it before. That was sometime back in the ’80s I believe. My question was to why he doesn’t retake it now? I’m surprised the even the Hayne supporters wouldn’t be pushing for him just to retake the darn thing.

    If they truly believe he is qualified then as somebody with 20+ yrs on the job experience, taking the type of exam that is in most industries seen as an entry requirement should be a pretty easy exam to pass.

  21. #21 |  Aresen | 

    Sorry I missed your point, Mike.

    Yes, if he can’t pass the exam with 20 years “experience”, it would probably cook his career.

    .
    .
    .
    Except in Mississippi. ;)

  22. #22 |  pam | 

    Isn’t Hayne claiming he walked out on the exam because the questions were absurd. Like what is the color for mourning or grieving or something of that nature? Was I imagining things? In fact there’s a difference between flunking it and walking out on it.

    I’m wondering why he doesn’t just take it as well. Wouldn’t that solve all his problems???? I mean if he passed it. If he didn’t, oh jeez, it’s over. Or is it already over? Who knows.

  23. #23 |  Sky | 

    In all candor I don’t thnk this has a damn thing to do with whether or not he could pass the exam again, he probably could with the 20+ years he’s been experimenting on the innocent, dead or alive. I’m convinced that Hood wants Hayne to continue his haphazard practices because all these years Hood has been able to garner the convictions he wants based on Hayne’s bogus qualifications. For Hood it’s all about “conviction rate” which, has certainly been enhanced because of Hayne’s testimony. For Hayne it’s all about the money and he has made plenty of it over the years.

    I also believe that the majority of this is “color” based. Mississippi is still burning.

  24. #24 |  Misipi Law Lady | 

    He won’t take it because he CAN’T PASS IT. While the exam sets the bar pretty low, it does require a modicum of generally-accepted scientific knowledge, which he clearly lacks. And he’s not alone, given that any fool with a scalpel can be a coroner here.

    The question he claims “made him angry” wasn’t even on the exam. You hit the nail on the head, Pam…had he not walked out, he would’ve flunked it, incontrovertibly proving what reasonable people already know.

    Why would he walk out “in protest” if the exam is all that stands between him and that $1M a year he was paid to fabricate evidence? Besides the fact that he lacks even the baseline of knowledge required to pass the exam, would any professional, legitimate board actually admit a colleague with his record?

    The guy’s a charlatan and an embarassment to my state. I don’t see how Jim Hood sleeps at night. There are a great many honest, good-faith attorneys in this state who desperately want to clean up this mess (including any and all bogus convictions) and put this humiliation behind us. I’ve been calling state representatives all afternoon to encourage them to get this bill over its final hurdle.

    The only way this clown should ever see the inside of a courtroom again is as a criminal defendant. Obstructing justice and evidence-tampering are crimes…but not as long as we suffer under Hood’s results-oriented, Constitution-trampling regime.

    Please try not to judge the whole state on this basis, as tempting as it may be. There are many hard-working, passionate people trying to fix it from within. I’m a law student now, and plan to stick around and join their ranks next year. We need support, not judgment.

  25. #25 |  pam | 

    http://blog.bardwelllaw.com/

    wow, tell us how you really feel.

  26. #26 |  pam | 

    I think you hit the nail on the head Sky.

  27. #27 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Well, you can’t blame the guy – it’s that evil innocence project that’s behind this nefarious legislation. I mean, they want to make sure only guilty people go to prison while innocent people don’t. You can’t trust people like that who aren’t tough on crime.

  28. #28 |  AJs | 

    First let me state that I think Hayne should be in jail, largely due to the wonderful investigative journalism done by Balko. However, anyone else see the irony behind a libertarian (activist?) journalist advocating for the government mandating by law a regulatory board certification of someones qualifications before being able to be employed to perform a job – and that the state government is the one resisting the additional regulatory requirement? I am all for it too, but I did have to chuckle a little to myself reading the emailing thinking – ‘wait a minute, government employee arguing for less regulation, and Balko for more… something is seriously wrong here!’

  29. #29 |  Michael Chaney | 

    I’m a staunch libertarian, but I have no problem with certain government regulations, particularly those regarding certain professions such as medicine and law.

  30. #30 |  Sky | 

    VERY VERY Interesting link Pam @ 25! Thank you.

    Here’s to hoping all honest, justice seeking attorney’s in Mississippi follow suit and speak as openly and honestly to their respective legislators!

  31. #31 |  Aresen | 

    | pam | March 12th, 2010 at 5:54 pm
    http://blog.bardwelllaw.com/

    wow, tell us how you really feel.

    +100 Pam, for that link.

  32. #32 |  pam | 

    another favorite

    http://nmisscommentor.com/2010/03/12/jim-hood-comes-out-against-having-qualified-forensic-pathologists/#comments

  33. #33 |  Aresen | 

    Thanks, Pam

    Nice to know that there are people fighting against Hood’s disingenuous campaign.

  34. #34 |  pierre | 

    It’s stories like this Hayne affair that makes me think we should have let the south succeed – but then they would probably still be horse-whipping slaves.

  35. #35 |  Judi | 

    MikeZ, Why doesn’t Hayne re-take the exam? He’s 170…er…a…about 70 years old now. My God, my question is why doesn’t he RETIRE and move to Timbucktoo?

    By the way, he is just now submitting bills he claims he is OWED from 2006…That LAST D-I-V-O-R-C-E was messy and quite expensive.

    Hood knows that if this bill makes it that this is admitting they screwed up all these years and will be forced to re-open the cases involving Hayne and West for that matter. $$$$$$$$ is the reason he is opposing this and the fact that HE knows that EVERYONE knew they allowed this bulls**t go on for far too many years.

    Hayne gave them what the DA’s wanted (including Hood) and they became complacent. If it works, don’t fix it.

    Well it didn’t work then and it ain’t working now.

  36. #36 |  Judi | 

    Oh yeah and here’s my petition site:

    http://www.gopetition.com/online/25939.html

    Yeah, I know about petitions and what most politicians think about them but we have to TRY.

    And I am needing supporters and help for a RALLY in Jackson. Who’s ready and willing?

    We can bitch about this all we want to but until we take ACTION, nothing will be done.

    Radley is my hero and I am not sucking up to him. He truly is a hero and anyone who disagrees with me will have one heluva fight on their hands…trust me.

    If not for Radley, thousands of people, myself included, would be uniformed.

    I actually contacted the Pultizer Prize folks to nominate Radley but they said this doesn’t qualify. Hmmf!

    Bulls**t. If righting the wrongs of society doesn’t qualify then what the hell does?

    Radley’s work is the catalyst for the tiny thing I am trying to accomplish. While it doesn’t compare to what Radley has done in any way, I still have to try and I won’t give up until the day I die.

    I may be just one person but I will be heard. Who’s with me?

  37. #37 |  Legitprop | 

    Unbelievable. The exam issue is almost besides the point. Focusing too much on it is dangerous, because Hayne might decide to go take the test, and if he passed, he would say his critics should stand down.

    The larger problem with Hayne’s autopsy practices is that he has repeatedly claimed in depositions that he works a superhuman workload – Between 16 and 20 hours per day, 365 days a year, for a period spanning decades. He insists in these depositions that he has essentially superhuman endurance, and so it is not fair to judge him by the standards that apply to average people. This is his explanation for how he can perform thousands of autopsies per year without sacrificing precision in his technique and accuracy in his findings. And when you study the opinions he’s offered in many criminal cases, precision and accuracy are vital, because there is often an extremely fine line between a finding that points to guilt and one that would suggest innocence.

    Does Hood really think that Hayne works this superhuman pace? Because if he doesn’t, then he would be admitting that Hayne has repeatedly perjured himself in past Mississippi cases. But if he believes Hayne, is it really Hood’s position that the justice system should trust the work done, and the testimony offered, by someone whose claimed workload renders him grossly non-compliant with every recognized standard governing the appropriate workload for a coroner? Would Hood think it was equally acceptable if a pilot insisted on blowing off the FAA rules and flying 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, while claiming that he had unusually high endurance so normal rules shouldn’t apply? Of course not.

  38. #38 |  Lorraine Sumrall | 

    I can’t wait for the day that Jim Hood goes down and gets what’s coming to him.

  39. #39 |  Doc Bain | 

    Dr. Hayne failed the boards 3 times. He is can not take the exam again until he successfully completes a fellowship program.

    Mr. Hood is a criminal.

    Dr. Bain

  40. #40 |  The Continuing Saga of Steven Hayne The latest developments in the story of America’s most industrious medical examiner « road2justice | 

    [...] his care when he was terminated. Several of the state’s coroners and prosecutors, along with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, mounted a brief campaign last year to reinstate Hayne, but that effort was defeated by the [...]

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