There have been some developments in the Mississippi case of Eddie Lee Howard, which I first wrote about here. I’ll have more on those developments in an upcoming column. But in the meantime Ican’t resist sharing a short passage from the Mississippi Innocence Project’s pleading in Howard’s case that relates to Mississippi District Attorney Forrest Allgood.
First some context. Allgood, remember, is the DA who wrongly convicted Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks. He’s also the DA who put Steven Hayne on the stand in the Tyler Edmonds case to deliver his infamous “I can tell by the bullet wounds that there were two hands on the gun” theory. The key to Eddie Lee Howard’s case, just as in the cases of Brewer and Brooks (and Jimmie Duncan), was bite mark testimony from our favorite forensic odontologist, Michael West.
Michael West is the man who claims to have invented a method of bite mark analysis that only he can conduct, and that can’t be duplicated by anyone else. He’s the man who claimed he could trace the teeth marks in a half-eaten bologna sandwich found at a crime scene to the defendant, to the exclusion of everyone else on the planet. He’s the man who, in a sting orchestrated by a defense attorney, not only claimed that a dental mold made from the teeth of the defense attorney’s private investigator was a definite match to photos of bite marks on a corpse from a case ten years prior, but also claimed the odds that anyone else made those bite marks were “astronomical,” and sent back a 20-minute video in which he explained, step by step, how he was able to match the dental mold to the completely unrelated bite marks.
So here’s what Forrest Allgood told the jury about Michael West’s genius during Eddie Lee Howard’s murder trial:
“[W]hether we like to think so or not, the progress of mankind has been carried forward on the backs of people like Michael West. . . The church threatened to burn Copernicus because he dared to say that the planets didn’t revolve around the earth. So it was with Michael West.”
And so it was.
I believe Allgood meant to invoke Galileo, not Copernicus. But otherwise, bravo, Mr. Prosecutor. One day children all over the world will read in their textbooks about this humble dentist from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and how the wicked fate of history cursed him to be unappreciated in his own time.