From 1995 to 2008, Steven Hayne was the de facto state medical examiner for Mississippi. He'd been handling most of the state's autopsies since the late 1980s, but the formal post of state medical examiner had been left vacant since 1995. For the next 13 years, Mississippi contracted forensic work to several doctors, though Hayne performed almost 85 percent of them. This despite the fact he was not board-certified in forensic pathology, as required by Mississippi law.
However, in recent years, numerous complaints about his shoddy work led to the reversal of several convictions based on his testimony. Most of the objections were raised by Radley Balko, then of Reason magazine and now of HuffPo, as well as by the Mississippi Innocence Project. Read Balko's stories about Hayne at Reason and at HuffPo. When the complaints became too much to ignore, Mississippi severed ties with him in 2008.
Mississippi hasn't shown much inclination to look more into Hayne's work, even though he testified in several death-penalty cases. But this morning's NYT has an article raising new questions about Hayne.
During the past several months, in courthouses around Mississippi, four new petitions have been quietly submitted on behalf of people in prison arguing that they were wrongfully convicted on the basis of Dr. Hayne’s testimony. Around 10 more are expected in the coming weeks, including three by inmates on death row.Last spring, Hayne sued the Innocence Project for defamation. While the Innocence Project paid Hayne a $100,000 settlement, some of the information it uncovered is disturbing. For instance, it found evidence that suggests Hayne misrepresented his academic record and qualifications--in some cases, contradicting his own sworn testimony. It also found evidence that state officials knew for some time that Hayne gave evidence that was sketchy and outright false.
The filings, based on new information obtained as part of a lawsuit settled last spring, charge that Dr. Hayne made “numerous misrepresentations” about his qualifications as a forensic pathologist. They say that he proposed theories in his testimony that lie far outside standard forensic science. And they suggest that Mississippi officials ignored these problems, instead supporting Dr. Hayne’s prolific business.
The NYT obtained copies of the four filings that have recently been made by inmates based on the information the Innocence Project uncovered. You can view them either in interactive form or as a PDF. All four cases involve defendants serving life imprisonment for murder. They claim that while Hayne was merely one of several pathologists contracted by the state, he falsely claimed he was the chief state pathologist. They also claim that Hayne falsely represented himself as board-certified, embellished his CV and routinely gave pseudo-scientific testimony that fit the prosecution's theory. Had this come to light, it's very likely these four men wouldn't have been convicted.
Even considering this is the same state where the Scott sisters were convicted based on the testimony of a 14-year-old who was browbeaten into testifying against them, this is absolutely staggering. Hopefully Hayne will have to answer for this soon.