I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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Radley Balko on West, Hayne, and the AG’s race

Radley Balko goes into details about how Jim Hood and Steve Simpson have staked out different positions about Stephen Hayne, Michael West, and the scandal over Mississippi’s lack of a pathologist.  And in doing so, brings up Dr. Roger Weiner, who told Balko that “in Mississippi, the cause of death is open to the highest bidder.”

Balko got extensive quotes from Steve Simpson:

In 2008, Simpson effectively terminated Hayne, and said until he could hire an official state medical examiner, Mississippi would send its autopsies to a private firm in Nashville, Tenn. The state medical examiner’s office, which is tasked with overseeing the autopsies carried out on a local level, had been vacant for 15 years until Simpson hired Dr. Adel Shaker last year. …

“I hired Mississippi’s first state medical examiner in more than a decade. Jim Hood fought me on that,” Simpson told The Huffington Post. “I’d be delighted for this to become a campaign issue.”

In fact, in 2009, Hood assisted the state’s coroners and prosecutors with a plan to bring Hayne back, even after Simpson had fired him. Hood issued an opinion allowing Mississippi counties to become independent districts for the purpose of conducting death investigations, essentially allowing them to ignore Simpson’s directive removing Hayne from the state’s list of medical examiners qualified to perform autopsies. Simpson then went to the state legislature, where he got a bill introduced that would require anyone performing autopsies for the state to be certified by the American Board of Pathology. Hood actively lobbied against that bill, and even sent out an email derisively referring to the bill as “an Innocence Project bill” and “potentially harmful legislation.”

“I was really pretty shocked to find out that Hood was working against me on that,” Simpson said. “All this legislation said was that anyone who performs an autopsy for a county in Mississippi must meet the minimum standard of board certification. And Hood tried to have that bill defeated.”

Tucker Carrington of the Innocence Project at Ole Miss is also quoted:

Carrington says Simpson deserves credit for what he has done already: “He completely reformulated how the state medical examiner is hired and fired. That’s all now done by an independent board. It has completely de-politicized the process, which is exactly what was needed.” But Carrington adds, ” Simpsondid recognize the scope of the problem. It’s Inconsistent to say we had this huge problem that needed to be corrected going forward, but then to play down the population of people who may have been affected by the problem — the people who may have been wrongly incarcerated.”

It is all worth reading. 

Update:  An email suggested I correct the heading where I’d swapped Radley’s name out.


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