The Innocence Project has agreed to pay Mississippi pathologist Steven Hayne $100,000 to settle his defamation suit against them. The Innocence Project admits no guilt, but apparently the organization was getting pressure from its insurer to settle the suit. (Disclosure: Much of my reporting made up part of complaint asking the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure to revoke Hayne’s medical license.)
It’s a paltry figure, which I think speaks volumes about the strength of Hayne’s case. Unfortunately, that they paid any money at all allows Hayne’s attorney to make claims like this:
Hayne’s attorney, Dale Danks Jr., said he “most definitively” believes Hayne has been vindicated by the judgment.”Very derogatory statements were made against him,” Danks said. “He is pleased to get this behind him. It was not a matter of money.”
Vindicated. Sure. I mean, he has been barred from doing any more state autopsies in Mississippi. And the Mississippi legislature passed a bill specifically aimed at keeping him from ever being used by prosecutors in the state again. And he was forced to resign his membership in the National Association of Medical Examiners in the face of an ethics inquiry. But sure. Let’s go with vindicated.
Here’s where the story accelerates from mildly irritating to outright appalling:
The project’s work helped lead to the exoneration of several individuals, including Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, each of whom had been convicted of raping and murdering a child. Brewer spent 15 years behind bars and had been on death row, and Brooks, sentenced to life in prison, had spent18 years.
Both men from Noxubee County have lawsuits against Hayne, who testified for the prosecution at their trials.
But Danks said Hayne deserves credit for helping to prove the innocence of Brewer and Brooks by preserving the DNA evidence that exonerated the men.
The attorney for the guy who, along with Michael West, was the main reason two innocent men spent nearly two decades each in prison—one of whom was nearly executed—says we should thank Steven Hayne for their eventual exonerations.