Friday, February 8, 2008

Story of the latest DNA exoneree.


Two men who were convicted of separate child murders in Noxubee County, Mississippi, are innocent and should be fully exonerated shortly, the Innocence Project said today. New evidence, which includes DNA testing and a confession, has identified the actual perpetrator in both cases, who was arrested earlier this week.

In 2001, while Brewer was on death row, DNA tests excluded him as the source of the semen recovered from the girl’s body. His conviction was vacated, but the District Attorney (who had prosecuted the case at trial) said he was going to re-try Brewer for the crime, and again seek the death penalty. For a full five years, the prosecutor did not move the case to trial – so Brewer waited for five years in the county jail. Finally, last summer, the Innocence Project helped Andre de Gruy of the Office of Capital Defense Counsel in Mississippi secure Brewer’s release from jail and geared up to represent him at a new trial. Meanwhile, seeing the similarities between the two cases, the Innocence Project took Brooks’ case – but quickly learned that the biological evidence from the crime was too degraded to yield results from DNA testing.

West has routinely collaborated with Steven Hayne, a medical examiner for hire who conducts nearly every autopsy for prosecutors in Mississippi – even though he flunked his board certification. He nets nearly $1 million a year from conducting autopsies across the state, and West helped set up the system that allows Hayne to handle so many autopsies (each year, Haynes conducts six times more autopsies than the recommended standard). Hayne conducted the autopsies on the victims in the Brewer and Brooks cases – and called West in for both autopsies. At Brewer’s trial, full video footage of the victim’s autopsy was deemed inadmissible in court because it was so offensive and inappropriate; throughout the autopsy of the raped and murdered three-year-old girl, Haynes listened to loud music, so the trial judge ruled that the sound from the video could not be played in court. West held the video camera during that autopsy.

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