The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist

Read Tim Requarth’s piece in Slate here about the gripping and important new book by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington.  Requarth quotes from the book:

The primary antagonists in this story are Steven Hayne, the state’s former de facto medical examiner, and Michael West, a prolific forensic dentist. A third is the state of Mississippi itself—not its people, but its institutions. In a larger sense, blame rests on courts—both state and federal—media, and professional organizations that not only failed to prevent this catastrophe but did little to nothing even after it was clear that something was terribly wrong. What you’re about to read didn’t happen by accident.

Requarth then says:

The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist is a densely reported book that highlights not only the cases of Brewer and Brooks but also a dizzying array of other wrongful convictions. The authors conducted more than 200 interviews and reviewed thousands of pages of court documents, letters, memos, case reports, and media accounts to trace the contours of a corrupted system. Hayne, they note, performed 80 percent of Mississippi’s state-ordered autopsies, or about 1,700 annually. This stands in contrast to guidelines from the National Association of Medical Examiners, which states that performing more than 325 annually is tantamount to malpractice. Hayne’s pace was likely a problem. In one autopsy report, Hayne described removing the uterus and ovaries—from a man. But quality, perhaps, wasn’t the point. With West as a sidekick, the duo could be counted on to deliver the “evidence” prosecutors needed for convictions. Hayne would discover “bite marks” on a victim’s body, and West would be called in to match them to the suspect’s teeth.

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