Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reminder: Balko panel discussion to include showing of Mississippi Innocence

    I reported back in August that civil libertarian Radley Balko would be speaking at Ole Miss on Tuesday, Oct. 25. My original post said he was speaking at the law school, but in fact he is speaking at the Overby Center for Journalism and Politics in Farley Hall at 5:30 p.m. More information about the panel discussion can be found right here.
    Balko is going to be part of a panel discussion that will follow a screening of "Mississippi Innocence," a locally made film about two innocent men who were convicted of murder based on junk science and arguably false testimony. For example, the dentist who testified against the men has sent one woman to jail with testimony that he can tell a lesbian bite mark from a heterosexual bite mark. Steven Hayne, another witness, has testified that he can tell from a bullet hole whether a gun was held with one or two hands.
    I saw Mississippi Innocence at the Oxford Film Festival. It is a powerful film. I also heard Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks tell their story. They both had sadness over their experience, but an amazing lack of rage or anger.
    I provided a short biography of Balko in my original post back in August. I see no need to repeat it here. You can just read the original post. As I said then, I hope I convince my children to come with me; I think it's important for them to understand how our criminal justice system works -- and doesn't work.


Anonymous said...

Getting no attention from Randy Balko's Innocents Project covering the saga Dr. Haynes' flawed testimony, is the case of Mary Sue Shields of Columbus, Mississippi.

This case involved Dr. Haynes' testimony that Ms.Shields' victim in a drunken New Years Eve dance floor fist-fight at a Columbus jukejoint, died as a direct result of a heart attack suffered on the dance floor during the fight.
There was no intent to murder the victim, but Ms. Shields was charged with murder, found guilty by a Lowndes county jury and sentenced to life in prison without parole by Judge Kitchens. Judge Kitchens claimed that the sentence was the only option ordained by the Mississippi legislature for the crime of murder. Her appeal for a new trial was denied.
Dr. Haynes testified that the heart attck was brought on by stress during the fistfight with Ms. Shields and her brother. Her brother came to her defense after Larry Martin threw the first punch. Dr. Haynes did admit that the autopsy on the "victim" revealed evidence of heart disease, but concluded that the stress of the fight led to his death. Quite a quantum leap in deductive logic, IMHO. The only "weapon" used in the fight was the leg of a broken barstool. The former editor of the Columbus Packet, Roger Larsen,editorialized on the miscarriage of justice in the Shields' case.

A comment on Ms. Shields' letter brought up the idea of juror's questions. Decades ago I saw an Alfred Hitchock TV episode on the subject of jurors' questions. In that episode a defendant was charged with murder of his girlfriend. It so happens that the real killer was called to sit on the jury. When it became almost certain that the defendant was going to be found guilty on hearsay evidence, the real killer juror began posing questions to the witnesses that ultimately destroyed the prosecution's case. He was acquitted.

Is it true that Mississippi is the only state that does not permit any form of juror's questions?

Please see what you can do to bring some limelight on MS. Shields' situation. Shortly after Ms. Shields' letter appeared in the Columbus Packet, I sent Tom Freeland an e-mail with the link below.

He never responded.

Ms. Mary Sue Shield's Letter To the Editor of the Columbus Packet.

Col. Reb Sez said...

Actually, Balko mentioned the Shields case during the panel discussion. I think there was a hearing on it yesterday in which the Attorney General's office was asked to turn over all information they had uncovered in their thorough investigation of Dr. West. The assistant attorney general hemmed and hawed and finally said that all they had done was some Westlaw searches, even though Jim Hood had claimed that his office was doing a full "investigation" into all of West's cases. Balko mentioned the hearing, and I think he was referring to the Shields case.

I know there is a great deal of interest in the Shields case amongst attorneys with half a brain in this state and I think eventually she will be freed. I just think it's a shame she has to sit in jail while we demonstrate how poorly our justice system works.