Hood opposes a limit on those who do autopsies

Attorney General Jim Hood opposes a House bill that supporters say would require people performing autopsies in Mississippi to be national board certified.

Hood has sent an e-mail to coroners and others saying the bill, which would require American Board of Pathology certification, also could affect cases involving medical examiner Dr. Stephen Hayne.

Hayne has testified in cases later ruled wrongful convictions and has been criticized by the Innocence Project, a national group that assists in possible wrongful convictions and pushes for policy to prevent them.

The Department of Public Safety backs HB 1456. It would grant exceptions when a certified forensic pathologist is not available within a reasonable time; for example, after a natural disaster.

The Innocence Project also backs the bill. Tucker Carrington, director of the Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law, said the state’s current law, which doesn’t require the certification for autopsies, is similar to not making lawyers pass a bar exam.

“If I mess up some guy’s case, there has to be some organization that can take my license,” Carrington said. “How can a bill be any less controversial? It is just asking that people be licensed.”
Hood said the bill would restrict options for district attorneys.

In his e-mail, he urged recipients to lobby against the measure, which would be sent to Gov. Haley Barbour to be signed into law if the House concurs with Senate changes.

“This is an Innocence Project bill which threatens cases which involved Dr. Hayne,” Hood wrote. “This bill has passed the Senate and is headed to the House of Representatives. Please contact your House member and encourage him or her to defeat this bill. Our office is working diligently to stop this potentially harmful legislation.”

Sun Herald
3/12/10