The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist
A True Story of Injustice in the American South
By Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington
Award winning-journalist Radley Balko illustrates the persistent and historic plague of institutional racism and junk forensic science on our criminal justice system through the story of two death row inmates finally freed after their wrongful conviction based on the testimony of a controversial medical examiner.
This is a tale of two tragedies.
At the heart of the first is Dr. Steven Hayne, a doctor the State of Mississippi employed as its de facto medical examiner for two decades. Beginning in the late 1980s, he performed anywhere from 1,200 to 1,800 autopsies per year, five times more than is recommended, all at night, in the basement of a local morgue and flower shop. Autopsy reports claimed organs had been observed and weighed when, in reality, they had been surgically removed from the body years before. But Hayne was the only game in town. He also often brought in local dentist and self-styled "bite mark specialist" Dr. Michael West, who would discover marks on victim's bodies, at times invisible to the naked eye, and then match those marks to law enforcement's lead suspect.
This leads to the second tragic tale: that of Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, two black men each convicted in separate cases of the brutal rape and murder of young girls. Dr. Hayne's autopsy and Dr. West's bite mark matching formed the bases for the convictions. Combined the two men served over 30 years in Mississippi's notorious penitentiary - Parchman Farm - before being exonerated in 2008. Brooks' and Brewer's wrongful convictions lie at the intersection of both the most pressing problem facing this country's criminal justice system - structural injustice built on the historic foundation of race and class as well as with the much more contemporary but equally egregious problem of invalid forensic science. The old problem is inextricably bound up with and exacerbates the new.
In Dr. Death and the Country Dentist, Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington write a true story of Southern gothic horror--of two innocent men wrongly convicted of vicious crimes and the legally condoned failures that allowed it to happen. Balko and Carrington will shine a light on the institutional and professional failures that allowed this tragic, astonishing story to happen, identify where it may have happened elsewhere, and show how to prevent it from happening again
Radley Balko is an investigative journalist and reporter at the Washington Post. He currently writes and edits The Watch, a reported opinion blog that covers civil liberties and the criminal justice system. He is the author of the 2013 book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces, which has won widespread acclaim, including from the Economist, New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly, and was named one of the best investigative journalism books of the year by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. Since 2006, Balko has written dozens of pieces on Hayne, West, and Mississippi's forensics disaster. His January 2013 investigation, "Solving Kathy Mabry's Murder: Brutal 15-Year-Old Crime Highlights Decades-Long Mississippi Scandal," was one of the most widely read Huffington Post articles of 2013. In 2015, Balko was awarded the Innocence Project's Journalism Award, in part for his coverage in Mississippi.
Tucker Carrington is the director of the Mississippi Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law. He has worked as a criminal defense lawyer for his entire legal career, most of it as a public defender in Washington, D.C.
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- Publication date:
29 Mar 2018
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