The US Fifth Circuit turns its back on a huge forensics scandal in Mississippi
I have spent nearly 20 years investigating cases from this state involving death penalty cases and life sentences related to the errant pathology and “science” experts running amok in its courts. Prior to that, as a student at the University of Southern California, I helped register voters in Fayette, MS and Lake Charles LA. in 1970. At that time, I also photographed the segregated high school for Fayette’s newly elected mayor Charles Evers, the first post-Reconstruction African-American mayor in Mississippi. He is the brother of Medgar Evers who was murdered in 1963 in Jackson, MS.
Nothing has burned deeper in my consciousness than the region’s judicial apathy to arbitrary, speculative, one-sided and outright junk expert opines which are repeatedly found acceptable by “gatekeepers” of justice in appellate litigation proceedings. Judges do have legal mechanisms available for turning things around. The brave do and the US Fifth Circuit Court (MS, Texas, LA) brethren have chosen not to. Again. There are 17 judges and 7 senior judges located in the John Minor Wisdom Courthouse in New Orleans.
John Minor Wisdom Courthouse
The experts, of course, are eagerly hired and supported by elected prosecutors (and allied colleagues) bent on getting what they want at all costs. The ex-prosecutors become judges and the judges run up the judicial food chain.
For a bit of context, meet Carl Stewart, the 5th’s Chief Judge of “the nation’s most divisive, controversial and conservative appeals court.” A man of considerable acumen in a decidedly “mean-spirited” panel. (taken from the above link).
Skepticism regarding the “scales of MS justice” resounds in many true crime, fictional, literary and mass media environments exists for a reason. It is real and thriving as a systemic problem with little oversight or counter balance most people assume is available in the US criminal justice system.
Here is the version of forensic facts and events that are not far from the 1964 ‘Mississippi Burning’ atrocity. This is real-life. The “game” in play within the state is one of self-righteous, self interest, personal gain and crude cronyism that runs throughout its boundaries.
Read on………..from Radley Balko
“With a curt, three-page ruling late last month, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied the post-conviction petition of Tavares Flaggs, a Mississippi man currently serving a life sentence for murder.
Flaggs was convicted in large part because of the testimony of Steven Hayne, a medical examiner who for about two decades was able to monopolize the autopsy business inMississippi. This story should really be one of the bigger criminal justice scandals in recent U.S. history. It potentially affects thousands of cases, both criminal and civil. It involves wrongful convictions, and people let off who should be behind bars. Several of the people convicted based on flawed testimony from Hayne are still on death row, in both Mississippi and in Louisiana. Flaggs’ petition, filed by the Mississippi Innocence Project, was the most comprehensive summary of what happened in Mississippi yet to get before a federal court. The Fifth Circuit panel brushed it aside in just four paragraphs.”