Monday, March 24, 2014

Rennie Gibbs: Mississippi; A case involving highly controversial pathologist Steven Hayne; A case called by Salon "A terrifying precedent: Woman to be tried for murder for giving birth to stillborn." A powerful story by reporter Nina Martin which asks: "Is there scientific proof that cocaine can cause lasting damage to a child exposed in the womb, or are the conclusions reached by Hayne and prosecutors based on faulty analysis and junk science?" (The answer is a no-brainer! Especially considering that all this is unfolding in Mississippi; Must, Must Read. Stay tuned! HL);

STORY: "A terrifying precedent: Woman to be tried for murder for giving birth to stillborn," by reporter Nina Martin, published by ProPublica.

SUB-HEADING: "A new "fetal harm" case could open door for women to be prosecuted for everything from miscarriage to abortion."

GIST: "Rennie Gibbs’s daughter, Samiya, was a month premature when she simultaneously entered the world and left it, never taking a breath. To experts who later examined the medical record, the stillborn infant’s most likely cause of death was also the most obvious: the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. But within days of Samiya’s delivery in November 2006, Steven Hayne, Mississippi’s de facto medical examiner at the time, came to a different conclusion. Autopsy tests had turned up traces of a cocaine byproduct in Samiya’s blood, and Hayne declared her death a homicide, caused by “cocaine toxicity.” In early 2007, a Lowndes County grand jury indicted Gibbs, a 16-year-old black teen, for “depraved heart murder” — defined under Mississippi law as an act “eminently dangerous to others…regardless of human life.” By smoking crack during her pregnancy, the indictment said, Gibbs had “unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously” caused the death of her baby. The maximum sentence: life in prison. Seven years and much legal wrangling later, Gibbs could finally go on trial this spring — part of a wave of “fetal harm” cases across the country in recent years that pit the rights of the mother against what lawmakers, health care workers, prosecutors, judges, jurors, and others view as the rights of the unborn child. A judge is said to be likely to decide this week if the case should move forward or be dismissed. Assuming it continues, whether Gibbs becomes the first woman ever convicted by a Mississippi jury for the loss of her pregnancy could turn on a fundamental question that has received surprisingly little scrutiny so far by the courts: Is there scientific proof that cocaine can cause lasting damage to a child exposed in the womb, or are the conclusions reached by Hayne and prosecutors based on faulty analysis and junk science?.........The quality of the science is very much an issue in the Gibbs case. In a motion to throw out Hayne’s autopsy report, defense lawyers have claimed that that the medical examiner misinterpreted toxicology results and failed to explore alternative causes of death. Those claims are not the first time Hayne’s work has come under attack. Indeed, Hayne — who effectively served as Mississippi’s statewide medical examiner from the late 1980s to 2008, eventually performing 80 to 90 percent of the autopsies in the state annually — has been a hugely influential and controversial figure in the criminal justice system there for years. In litigation (much of it by the Mississippi Innocence Project) and news reports (many of them by Radley Balko, now of the Washington Post), defense lawyers and other medical examiners have accused Hayne of being sloppy, exaggerating his credentials, and leaping to conclusions that sometimes had no basis in science. At least four murder convictions based on Hayne’s evidence — one involving an innocent man sentenced to death for the killing of a three-year-old girl — have been overturned since 2007......... Despite having failed to complete his certification test by the American Board of Pathology, Hayne not only practiced for two decades in Mississippi and nearby states, but by his own estimate he performed as many as 1,800 autopsies a year (the National Association of Medical Examiners recommends that a single doctor conduct no more than 250).  Mississippi stopped hiring Hayne in 2008, but he continues to testify in cases that he handled before then. In their court filing, Gibbs’s lawyers cited a capital murder conviction of a 14-year-old boy that the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned because of what it called “scientifically unfounded” testimony by Hayne. That case involved both the prosecutor and the judge handling the Gibbs prosecution."

The entire story can be found at:


Dear Reader. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog. We are following this case.
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The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

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Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

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