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October 06, 2007

CSI MISSISSIPPI: Er, if "CSI" stands for "Crappy Scientific Investigations," anyway:

In January, Mississippi's Supreme Court took an unusual step. In the murder trial of 13-year-old Tyler Edmonds, the court tossed out the testimony of the medical examiner who had conducted the autopsy of the body.

The reason? The medical examiner in the case, Dr. Steven Hayne, had testified under oath that he could tell from the bullet wounds in the body that Edmonds and his sister simultaneously held the gun to fire the fatal shot. Of course, as the court concluded, it is impossible to make such a determination from examining bullet wounds.

Former Columbus, Miss., Police Chief J.D. Sanders has been trying for years to draw attention to Dr. Hayne. "There's no question in my mind that there are innocent people doing time at Parchman Penitentiary due to the testimony of Dr. Hayne," he says. "There may even be some on death row."

In addition to state Supreme Court justices and police officers, defense lawyers, crime lab experts and state medical examiners have all made public their concerns with his practice, and with the testimony he has contributed to hundreds of cases over a 20-year career.

Scientific evidence is often neither scientific nor evidence, and there have been plenty of cases of fraud on the part of government laboratories in the past.