Steven Hayne, Expert for the Defense

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Last week, Steven Hayne testified for the defense in a Mississippi murder trial. If you’ll remember, now that he’s no longer permitted to do official state autopsies for prosecutors, Hayne has been shopping his services to the defense bar. This particular case was in Lowndes County, served by District Attorney Forrest Allgood, a third of the longtime Hayne/West/Allgood triumverate of injustice.

The defendant in this case was acquitted, thanks in large part to Hayne’s testimony. Nut graph:

The defense’s case was strengthened by the testimony of forensic pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne, who concluded, based on the original autopsy report and Sharp’s testimony, that the first bullets fired hit Cole in the front of his body, while the two entrance wounds to his back were among the last to occur….

During rebuttal, prosecutor Rhonda Hayes-Ellis recalled forensic pathologist, Dr. Adele Lewis, who performed the autopsy on Cole’s body. Lewis said Wednesday that there was no way to determine which shot was fired first because of the multiple variables involved — the position of the person shooting the gun and how the gun was angled.

Lewis stuck to that finding Friday.

“There’s an infinite number of scenarios in which you can pose the shooter,” Lewis said. “An honest and competent pathologist would not be able to tell you which order the shots were fired and the position of the person. It’s not scientifically possible.”

It’ll be interesting to see how much tolerance Mississippi judges, coroners, and prosecutors have for Hayne now that he’s working against them.

I’m also interested in what defense attorneys think about this. Is it ethical to use Hayne if you know he’s a fraud and an opinion for hire, even though Mississippi courts are still willing to certify him as an expert witness?

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17 Responses to “Steven Hayne, Expert for the Defense”

  1. #1 |  Z | 

    At the heart of being a good lawyer is the ability to argue both sides of the coin with equal conviction. (This is also why so many people hate lawyers and why so many lawyers hate themselves.)

    As to whether Steve will be accepted as a defense witness, of course not.

  2. #2 |  John Jenkins | 

    You can’t knowingly put on false evidence, but other than that your obligation is to your client’s best interest. If the court is willing to certify him as an expert, you don’t know that he is lying, and his testimony will help your client, then you should use him. It’s the court’s job to vet scientific evidence under Rule 702 (or the state court equivalent), not yours.

  3. #3 |  Judi | 

    The defense’s case was strengthened by the testimony of forensic pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne…

    ‘Forensic pathologist’? Since when?

  4. #4 |  CyniCAl | 

    “Is it ethical to use Hayne if you know he’s a fraud and an opinion for hire, even though Mississippi courts are still willing to certify him as an expert witness?”

    I get my best bellylaughs from you Radley. Ethics and U.S. criminal “justice?”

    Being brought before a criminal court in the US is nothing short of the government declaring war on the defendant. All is fair in war.

  5. #5 |  Cappy | 

    At the very least, Hayne forced the prosecution to admit that there was reasonable doubt which opened the minds for the jury.

  6. #6 |  Mr Lizard | 

    So how long until this guy is called to refute himself as part of an old case?

  7. #7 |  SJE | 

    To discredit Hayne, a prosecutor would need to discredit trust in government and the tangled web of corruption that occurs too often between prosecutors, law enforcement and crime labs….in other words, weakening his own case.

  8. #8 |  Rob Lyman | 

    Technically, you only know that he was a fraud, not that he is a fraud…

    But on the other hand, there is the question of whether it is wise to give the prosecution that opening.

  9. #9 |  John Jenkins | 

    The prosecution can’t take that opening, because there are too many prior cases on that depend on his testimony. Attacking his credibility as a scientific expert would mean opening up all of those cases to collateral attack on that basis.

  10. #10 |  Rob Lyman | 

    Any cases open to collateral attack based on Hayes’ fraudulence are already open to attack. To the extent that he lacks credibility, anybody convicted based on his testimony can already raise the issue. Having a prosecutor point out his faults at a trial doesn’t make a whit of difference.

    It’s not like “the prosecution” is some monolithic entity where everything anybody associated with it ever says is an admission that binds all prosecutors, everywhere.

  11. #11 |  David | 

    Hell, I’m just glad he’s making claims that can be proven with known forensic science. “This is an entrance wound” is a lot better than “I can prove the shooter’s posture from bullet holes because fuck you, that’s why.”

  12. #12 |  Cheryl Harrell | 

    I for one am not pleased with Haynes past,but I have a son that he testified during his trial (WHICH HE WAS SENTENCED TO DEATH BY LETHAL INJECTION)not from Haynes testimony for what he said,but for what he did not say,because he was not asked.The prosecutors did not ask all the right questions for the right answers,but ask all the wrong questions for the wrong answers to hurt my sons case.The defense attorneys…WHAT A JOKE????????. they offered NO DEFENSE AT ALL.They only cross-examined ( 1 ) TOTAL WITNESS?????. Haynes has since done a DEPOSITION for my son,we are hoping and praying that the truth will finally come out and give him the relief that he truly deserves..exonoration,or it could give him a new trial.

  13. #13 |  John Regan | 

    The acquittal is also explained – perhaps entirely explained – by the fact that the defendant is the daughter of a sheriff’s deputy.

    Regarding the defense using Hayne, it’s questionable and it depends. You can’t use evidence you know to be false. You shouldn’t use evidence you know is unreliable. A witness whose testimony has historically been unreliable would ordinarily be a bad risk, even if you thought he was dead on for what you wanted to use him for.

    But he wasn’t such a bad risk here, for the reasons SJE and Jenkins cite. Also, because of the relationship of the defendant to law enforcement, the dynamics of this trial would be substantially different than usual. The usual institutional momentum wasn’t there.

  14. #14 |  NMissC (Tom Freeland) | 

    Perhaps this is the nut graph: “[Defendant] Sharp is the daughter of Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Rick Sharp.”

  15. #15 |  Darth Conans | 

    I know that if you called a witness like this at the federal level, the prosecutor would invoke the Daubert standard and you wouldn’t be allowed to use the testimony. I have no idea how it works at a state level, though.

  16. #16 |  Goober | 

    It is ethical if it is used on the defense side. As far as I’m concerned, the defense should be able to do whatever it wants to do with the exception of outright lying. If the guy is a nutcase, the prosecutors should have no problem refuting what he said and refuting him, to boot.

    As I’ve said before, I’d rather let a guilty man go free that put an innocent man behind bars. I can deal with criminals myself, just fine. What I can’t deal with is an out-of-control state that will lie, decieve, and fabricate in order to put you in prison when you’ve done nothing wrong.

  17. #17 |  Cbalducc | 

    I don’t know if you can prove that the jury was intimidated by the fact that the plaintiff was the daughter of a deputy sheriff. It seems to me the jury decided the victim was a bad guy who got what was coming to him.