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Manufactured Guilt in Louisiana?
February 19, 2009 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Radley Balko (mefi’s own), a journalist for reason magazine and writer of theagitator.com blog, published a startling story at reason online today (warning: disturbing photos and video) that convincingly suggests that the embattled doctors Steven Hayne and Michael West may have engaged in criminal evidence tampering that supported a capital murder conviction in the death of a 23 month old girl in Louisiana. Jimmie Duncan, the defendant, currently sits on death row.

Hayne and West’s findings against Duncan were similar to those against Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, two men who were convicted in Mississippi based on bite mark analysis but freed (largely thanks to the Innocence Project) on DNA evidence. In each case, West matched bite marks on a victim’s body – which were “discovered” by Hayne after they went unnoticed by other persons exposed to the victim – to the defendant. The bite marks were then used to support a murder conviction.

Radley’s previous work exposing Dr. Hayne was a driver of the state of Mississippi removing him last summer from the list of doctors authorized to perform autopsies in the state. Radley’s work – on prosecution of doctors, ”puppycide” by raiding police, the rise of SWAT teams, a look at an anti-capitalist protest in DC, and the sad case of Cory Maye - has been featured on Metafilter before.
posted by AgentRocket (29 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Can we get this guy to run for Congress or something? President even?
posted by spicynuts at 2:58 PM on February 19, 2009


Note that Radley's video depicts Hayne and West repeatedly desecrating the body of a 2 year old girl. It really is beyond the pale.
posted by Justinian at 3:11 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have trouble putting myself in the mindset of someone that would do something this heinous, and for that I am grateful.
posted by Hutch at 3:13 PM on February 19, 2009


From the article, this doctor performed thousands of autopsies for the state- if he is proven to have manufactured evidence (and from watching the video, there appears to be no other rational conclusion), there will likely be dozens - maybe hundreds - of trials that have been irrevocably tainted. The state of Mississippi should be howling for his head, not protecting his sorry hide from prosecution.
posted by jenkinsEar at 3:14 PM on February 19, 2009


I haven't clicked on any of the links, nor have I heard of this case before, but let me guess: Duncan is black and Hayne and West are white.
posted by desjardins at 3:16 PM on February 19, 2009


if he is proven to have manufactured evidence (and from watching the video, there appears to be no other rational conclusion), there will likely be dozens - maybe hundreds - of trials that have been irrevocably tainted.

"Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached."
-Antonin Scalia
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:17 PM on February 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


On the basis of those already executed at the hands of falsified evidence, doesn't the conspiracy angle make charges of first-degree murder appropriate for Hayne and West?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:18 PM on February 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


Sonovabitches must pay.
posted by caporal at 3:25 PM on February 19, 2009


I think most people will miss this angle: This is not a new videotape. The defense had this tape before the trial. The judge didn't allow it to be presented because in his view the tape contained "no exculpatory evidence favorable to the defendant".

Yes, a Louisiana trial judge determined that a video depicting the state's coroner and bite evidence expert fabricating the only physical evidence in the case by repeatedly desecrating the body of a dead 2 year old girl had no bearing on the case.

You stay classy, Louisiana.
posted by Justinian at 3:27 PM on February 19, 2009 [9 favorites]


Also, I predict this will go absolutely no where. Remember the last thread about the West Memphis Three? How some Mefites were confidently predicting they'd all be out of prison inside a month and scoffed at me for saying they'll all die in prison? Guess where they all are now? That's right, prison.

That's exactly where Jimmie Duncan is gonna be in a year. Unless they execute him first.
posted by Justinian at 3:31 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there DNA evidence linking them to the body? Of course, I suppose that if the forensic pathologists people would go so far as to fake evidence, they could probably add contaminate the body with samples of the suspects DNA as well.
posted by delmoi at 3:38 PM on February 19, 2009


wtf?
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:41 PM on February 19, 2009


"Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached." - Antonin Scalia

I assume you're referring to Herrera v. Collins. The salient thing is not actually that one justice might hold this (despicable) opinion, but that the majority of the court would actually concur with it.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:51 PM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is there DNA evidence linking them to the body?

No, the bite mark evidence was the only physical evidence presented. They did have a jailhouse snitch, though, and we know those guys are 100% on the level.
posted by Justinian at 3:59 PM on February 19, 2009


Science Found Wanting in Nation’s Crime Labs
posted by homunculus at 4:28 PM on February 19, 2009


*blink*
posted by Smedleyman at 4:32 PM on February 19, 2009


I wish we could feed these guys to alligators.
posted by polyhedron at 5:01 PM on February 19, 2009


Disgusting. Deep, Deep Disgust.
posted by UseyurBrain at 5:31 PM on February 19, 2009


Can we get this guy to run for Congress or something? President even?

Whoa, there cowboy ... You can't be saying stuff like that here; this is the LOLIBERTARIANS blog.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:47 PM on February 19, 2009


Balko is absolutely top notch on civil liberties but I suspect his economic policies would make a lot of people here cringe.
posted by Justinian at 7:29 PM on February 19, 2009


"Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached."
-Antonin Scalia


He never said this.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:35 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


He never said this.

Yes, and I wish people would stop quoting it as if he had. The Herrera v. Collins is deeply disturbing, to say the least, but there's no need to go lying about what was said in it.

For what it's worth, the fake quote is apparently meant as a paraphrase of this:
I would have preferred to decide that question, particularly since, as the Court's discussion shows, it is perfectly clear what the answer is: there is no basis in text, tradition, or even in contemporary practice (if that were enough) for finding in the Constitution a right to demand judicial consideration of newly discovered evidence of innocence brought forward after conviction.

Here's the full decision.
posted by moss at 8:06 PM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]



Whoa, there cowboy ... You can't be saying stuff like that here; this is the LOLIBERTARIANS blog.


Oh shit, right. Sorry. Won't happen again. Momentary lapse.
posted by spicynuts at 8:14 PM on February 19, 2009


Glad to see Balko's work up here. Hopefully he won't be accused of being a corporate shill this time around.

I've been reading his work on Hayne and West at his blog for a long while now, and the one thing that I can't get my head around is this:

Does the state really think that people are bitten that often? In this case specifically, why the hell would the dude have bite the girl? And on the cheek? Who does that?

I guess if you're listening to West all the time, then yea, you'd expect it. But really, who bites someone outside of a struggle?
posted by FuManchu at 11:21 PM on February 19, 2009


For what it's worth, the fake quote is apparently meant as a paraphrase of this

The paraphrasing seems reasonably equivalent in content to the "fake" quotation. Scalia is saying that evidence of innocence doesn't compel the legal system to reexamine its conviction and punishment of an innocent person, no?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:11 AM on February 20, 2009


“Mere factual innocence is no reason not to carry out a death sentence properly reached."
-Antonin Scalia
He never said this.”

Mere factual quotation is no reason not to reflect what he would have said properly reached.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:59 AM on February 20, 2009


if you think that's sick you should see how he fills a cavity
posted by Hammond Rye at 11:18 AM on February 20, 2009


More from Balko: How to Bring Real Science Into the Courtroom
posted by homunculus at 2:11 PM on February 20, 2009


Tearful Atlanta Cops Express Remorse for Shooting 92-Year-Old Kathryn Johnston, Leaving Her To Bleed to Death in Her Own Home While They Planted Drugs in Her Basement, Then Threatening an Informant So He Would Lie To Cover It All Up
posted by homunculus at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2009


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