Canned Forensic Pathologist Steven Hayne Stands by His Work

9472Steven Hayne Canned Forensic Pathologist Steven Hayne Stands by His Work

The New
York Times snags
an interview with Steven T. Hayne, the suspiciously productive
Mississippi pathologist whose work Radley Balko examined in a
series of groundbreaking
exposés for Reason, beginning in 2006. Hayne, who for
two decades was responsible for the vast majority of forensic
autopsies in Mississippi, performing them at an amazing rate of
more than four every day of the year, was removed from the state’s
list of approved forensic pathologists in 2008 due to questions
about his qualifications and methods raised by Balko, the
Mississippi Innocence Project, and other critics. Now some inmates
who were convicted based partly on Hayne’s testimony are seeking
new trials, although no systematic review of such cases is planned.
James Lauridson, a former state medical examiner in Alabama (and
one of Balko’s sources), tells the Times, “There are
hundreds of cases that have to be reconsidered.” But Hayne insists
his work was impeccable:
“I don’t think I was treated fairly,” he said last month at his
house in a gated community overlooking the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
“Is that the way you treat people after 20 years of working like a
By his own count, he performed as many as 1,700 autopsies some
years, in addition to having his own pathology practice. Dr. David
Fowler, the chief medical examiner in Maryland and a former
chairman of the standards committee for the National Association of
Medical Examiners, called the number “beyond defensible.”
Dr. Hayne said that state-appointed medical examiners simply did
not have his motivation as a fee-based contractor, nor his work
ethic. “How many autopsies could they do?” he said. “They could do
one or 500, they get paid the same amount. Is there any incentive
to do a heavy load?”
Hayne likewise stands by his amazing powers of forensic
analysis, such as his purported ability to examine the exhumed body
of a 3-year-old boy buried weeks before and conclude that he had
been smothered by a large male hand, consistent with the suspect
arrested by police (who was later convicted). Although Hayne
has plenty of critics among pathologists, prosecutors still defend
“I’m sure there’s a lot of people that don’t like Hayne, but
from a prosecutor’s standpoint I don’t know anybody who didn’t like
him,” said John T. Kitchens, a former district attorney and circuit
court judge. “He was always so helpful and useful to law
No kidding. As Balko has argued, Hayne is an extreme example of
a more general problem: People who perform autopsies should not see
police and prosecutors as their customers, whom they are eager to
please so they will get more of their business in the future. Just
as prosecutors (theoretically) are supposed to seek justice, not
just a conviction, medical examiners should be seeking the truth,
even when it does not help the state’s case. Too cozy a
relationship with prosecutors makes that impossible.For the details on why prosecutors liked Hayne so much, see
Balko’s 2007 feature
story and his 2010

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Canned Forensic Pathologist Steven Hayne Stands by His Work

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