So I’ve written a couple times about how Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has claimed that his office is “investigating” the forensic bite mark fraud Michael West. I also pointed out that that it’s odd that Hood would claim he’s conducting this investigation just as his election opponent began criticizing him about West and Steven Hayne, that Hood has never mentioned such an investigation before, and that when I asked his office for even the most basic of details about the alleged investigation, they refused to provide me with any information.
Tonight I spoke on a panel in Oxford, Mississippi, about the Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks cases, just after a screening of Mississippi Innocence, a documentary about the two men and what they endured. (It’s a wonderful film, by the way. And if you’re human, it will make you weep.) Just before the movie started, I got a call from Tucker Carrington, director of the Mississippi Innocence Project. Carrington was down state for a hearing in the Leigh Stubbs case, a case in which Hood’s office is (once again) defending a conviction won primarily due to West’s testimony. (But it’s okay! Because Hood is investigating West!)
Carrington and his organization are representing Stubbs. So this afternoon, they asked the judge to order the state to turn over all material related to Hood’s alleged investigation of West, citing his statement to a local TV station a couple of weeks ago. According to Carrington, an assistant district attorney from Hood’s office then stood up and told the judge that he was the one who was overseeing the West investigation. So what materials would he be handing over? What has this meticulous investigation turned up? The ADA said that so far, well more than a decade after West has been exposed as a fraud, nearly eight years after Hood first took office, three-and-a-half years after Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks were exonerated after both were wrongly convicted of murder almost exclusively because of Steven Hayne and Michael West, 10 years after West was again revealed as a fraud in a sting conducted by a defense attorney—after all of that, the guy overseeing the West investigation has so far . . . wait for it! . . . done a Westlaw search on Michael West’s name.
That’s it. That’s the extent of the “investigation.” If you aren’t a lawyer, a Westlaw search is basically the legal-world equivalent of a Google search.
Let’s put this more bluntly: Jim Hood is full of shit. Meanwhile, the Mississippi press’s interest in the AG’s race and all of these issues apparently boils down to who bought dinner for whom at a steakhouse.Two years ago.
If, like me, you’ve ever wondered how the hell this scandal percolated for the better part of two decades, affected thousands of cases, sent innocent people to prison, allowed guilty people to remain free to commit more crimes, and no one gave a damn . . . well, I guess there’s your answer.