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August 21st, 2009
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Pathologist's work raises questions

Tyler Edmonds at home in Columbus, M.S. with a dog he adopted from an animal shelter.
Tyler Edmonds at home in Columbus, M.S. with a dog he adopted from an animal shelter.

Joneil Adriano
AC360° Producer

When other boys were playing football, learning to drive and chasing girls, Tyler Edmonds was a child locked up with adults, serving a life sentence in a Mississippi prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Today, Edmonds is a free man. But he still holds a lot of resentment toward the state expert who helped to convict him of murder.

“I think that he’s the dirt of the Earth, the scum of the Earth,” Edmonds, 20, told CNN. “If anybody deserves to be in jail, it’s him.”

The target of Edmond’s scorn is Dr. Steven Hayne, a Mississippi forensic pathologist who testified at Edmonds’ 2004 trial. Edmonds, then only 14, was accused of murdering his brother-in-law, Joey Fulgham, who had been shot in the head with a single bullet.

Dr. Hayne performed the autopsy on Fulgham and concluded that “within reasonable medical certainty,” two people had likely fired the murder weapon. Dr. Hayne based his findings on his examination of the gunshot wound.

“Since it would be past the center line of the decedent’s head when fired, 20 degrees past the center line of the head, so therefore, it would be consistent with two people involved,” Dr. Hayne said on the witness stand.

Critical Testimony

Dr. Hayne’s testimony seemed to give credibility to the prosecution’s theory that Edmonds and his older sister acted together to murder her husband.

Edmonds’ attorneys appealed his conviction all the way to Mississippi Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial. The court seemed troubled by Dr. Hayne’s “speculative” and “scientifically unfounded” testimony.

“You cannot look at a bullet wound and tell whether it was made by a bullet fired by one person pulling the trigger or by two persons pulling the trigger simultaneously,” the court said.

In 2007, four years after he was arrested, Edmonds was released on bond. In 2008, he was retried and acquitted.

“They went to a second trial,” said Tucker Carrington, Director of the Mississippi Innocence Project, “and the one thing essentially that was missing was Dr. Hayne’s opinion.”

Tyler Edmonds and his lawyer speak with CNN's David Mattingly.
Tyler Edmonds and his lawyer speak with CNN's David Mattingly.

Other Tyler Edmonds'?

Carrington, whose group did not play a role in defending Edmonds, says they are concerned that Dr. Hayne’s testimony may have helped to convict other innocent people. They have launched a comprehensive review of Dr. Hayne’s testimony, and worry that Dr. Hayne may have been willing to tailor his testimony in order to help prosecutors.

“We have found cases where Dr. Hayne, like he did in Tyler Edmonds’ case, strays beyond the bounds of science, beyond the bounds of good objective forensic work, and offers testimony that in many cases, amounts to nonsense,” Edmonds said.

Carrington’s group is also alarmed by the number of autopsies Dr. Hayne had been performing every year – more than 1500. The National Association of Medical Examiners recommends that pathologists perform no more than 325 autopsies annually.

Accusations Refuted

Dr. Hayne’s lawyer, Dale Danks, maintains that his client has never sent an innocent man to jail and that he has never done anything improper to aid any side in a trial.

“The role of Dr. Hayne and any other pathologist is to state in his opinion, the cause of death and the manner of the cause of that death. And that’s all he testifies to,” said Danks. “His job has always been and should be and will be if I know him as well as I know him, to be impartial and fair and not take sides in either issue.”

If there was a mistake made in Edmonds’ first trial, according to Danks, it was made by the trial judge, who should not have allowed Dr. Hayne to testify about the two-shooter theory.

“It’s up to the judge as to whether or not that’s admissible or not. Not Dr. Hayne, not the prosecution, not the defense attorney.”

Danks also says it was Edmonds himself – in a false confession that was almost immediately recanted – who said he and his half-sister were both responsible for shooting Fulgham.

“That confession was part of the facts that were presented to Dr. Hayne. And based on Dr. Hayne’s findings of his autopsy report, he said it was more in tune with what the defendant had already confessed to,” said Danks.

High Number of Autopsies

As for the criticism that Dr. Hayne is performing autopsies at a rate far higher than nationally recommended, Danks says his client’s numbers are in line with other noted pathologists.

Still, the College of American Pathologists sent Dr. Hayne a letter last year to express “concern relating to the volume of autopsies you claim to perform on an annual basis.”

And last year, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety abruptly terminated its contract with Dr. Hayne to perform autopsies, citing a backlog of nearly 500 hundred reports. Forensic Medical, Inc., in Nashville, Tennessee, now conducts autopsies for the state. But several county coroners, citing the inconvenience of using an out of state company, want Hayne to be allowed to perform autopsies again.

Hayne is also suing the Innocence Project, claiming the group’s criticism of him is defamatory. Meanwhile, two wrongfully convicted men have filed federal civil rights lawsuits against Hayne over testimony he provided at their trials.

Picking Up The Pieces

Edmond’s half-sister, Kristi Fulgham, is now on Mississippi’s death row for the murder of Joey Fulgham.

Since being acquitted last November, Tyler Edmonds has been slowly putting the pieces of his life back together again. He has his high school diploma and plans to take classes to become an EMT.

But the transition back to freedom was difficult for him and his family, and he says he now has an appreciation for the simple things in life.

“The things that most people take for granted, or don’t even think about,” Edmonds said. “Like fixing your own plate when dinner’s ready. Being able to fix your own plate and not having it fixed for you and brought to you.”

Although Dr. Hayne insists he did nothing wrong, Edmonds thinks he played a major role in his wrongful conviction, and hopes someday he will hear an apology.

“I guess for me, the biggest thing it would show is that he’s taken some kind of accountability,” Edmonds said. “I’ve already had six years of my life stolen away because of it, and you’re not even man enough to stand up and say, It was unprofessional, I was wrong.”

CNN’s David Mattingly contributed to this report.

soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. Danny

    This is so pathetic that CNN didn't even acknowledge the work of Radley Balko. This is nearly plagarism. You should be ashamed CNN.

    August 24, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  2. ksmith

    if edmond's attorney thought that haynes' overstepped his bounds- why wasn't this called out in court and why didn't they hire another, third-party autopsy?

    August 24, 2009 at 12:30 pm |
  3. rick

    this man is in no way shape or form qualified to be giving testimony and he has proven it. he needs to be investigated and locked up.

    August 24, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  4. Matty

    Come on, the kid was 14 years old! sounds to me like there were some people very anxious to make an example of him with shakey home spun forensics. The important part is that he beat the case, and is now going after the man who wrongly accused him.

    In the end the damage has already been done though, sending a child, any child at 14 to prison causes psychological damage that as the article noted takes quite a bit of time to get over.

    August 24, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  5. Judi

    How long is my previous comment going to remain in 'moderation limbo'?

    PLEASE Mr. Cooper, interview Radley Balko and air this story!

    I know this won't get posted and that's fine. I have a petition demanding the state of Mississippi investigate Drs. Hayne and Michael West, re-open the old cases they testified in and place a moratorium on the death penalty.

    In the name of all that's HOLY, PLEASE help us before it's too late.

    August 24, 2009 at 11:02 am |
  6. Jane

    Rose Prophesy wrote: "The problem with our world and society is that we always find scapegoats of our shortcoming and ignorance and lock them up especially when they are young it is not them who are the guilty: itis the parents and before the ignorant parents is the ignorant society which means the pathologists and drug pusher psychiatrists who half the time label these young children and put an end to their lives before they begin! It is time for change and implementing Rose Parvin’s Self and Societal knowledge in her 9 books she wrote in 1994 in one year on a calling the be the mother of the world and to change the dark societal patterns!These books should be read by all professionals from teachers to preechers to mental health providers and to world leaders and judges for us to reform the world we must begin with those who make judgement against people who ultimately end up to be the scapegoats of societal ignorance!"

    I've never read such an ignorant, self-serving comment and promotion on here. You don't even know what you're commenting on, apparently, but I'm not certain of that because your "sentences" run on and on and on. Hey, genius...ever heard of a "PERIOD?" It's on the next to the bottom row of your keyboard. It's a little round dot that's used by non-morons to end a written thought. Idiot.

    August 24, 2009 at 9:55 am |
  7. DaSunshine Gibson-Westbrook

    TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: PLEASE INVESTIGATE THIS JUDGE? THANK YOU. GOD'S SPEED,
    Deborah Gibson-Westbrook http://www.nextcat.com/dagw
    … CONTACT: abuse-n-da-kingdom@hotmail.com/ 817-269-6380 IMMEDIATE RELEASE: ARROGANT JUDGE Steve M. King/Probate Court One/Ft. Worth, TX – DISMISSES ENTIRE JUROR PANEL: MAKES JUDGMENT... Tuesday, August 4, 2009, in Fort Worth, Texas PROBATE COURT ONE, I witnessed Judge Steve M. King BOLDLY and ARROGANTLY, DISMISS the ENTIRE Panel of JURORS, made up of Men and Women, using a CODE he claim JUSTIFIED his Rule; then made Judgment, in favor of his friend Attorney Kerry E. Moseley/Bar#14570500-Moseley, Moseley & Moseley Law Office-2263 8th Ave-Ft. Worth, TX 76110/(817)921-0271. There has to be something ILLEGAL, CONSTITUTIONALLY WRONG, ABUSIVELY IMPROPER and CRIMINAL, with Judge Steve M Kings’ action; in Case of Edward D Westbrook/Plaintiff vs. April Westbrook/ Defendant. Judge Steve M King, prior to start of Trial, boldly-arrogantly strike/dismissed/dis-allowed every Witness from Plaintiff’s Witness List claiming, quote: “Your list was not sent in a timely matter for Mr. Moseley.” End of quote. According to Plaintiff, Judge Steve M King warned him, in his chambers, that if he mentioned anything about his entire witness list being strike, he would throw it out of court. The Witness List included deceased Doctors, Nurses, Mediator, State Troopers names; all named witness were necessary for Testimony proof of Mental/Physical Health Capacity; Signature Verification. ‘Threw it out!’ is exactly what Judge Steve M. King did, Tuesday, August 4, 2009. The Plaintiff was NOT allowed to call one of his witnesses to testify, as witnesses for the Plaintiff, entered the court room, only to find out “They had NO VOICE in the case of Wade Tennie Westbrook Estate”. I witnessed anger and frustration of Plaintiff’s Witnesses as Judge Steve M King made his arrogant Judgment for his friend Kerry E Moseley who represented April Westbrook/Probation Officer/Ft Worth, TX. Over half the witnesses, made up of Siblings, children, wife and friends on the list had already been contacted by Attorney Kerry E Moseley months before trial date, 04AUG2009. According to witnesses; when Attorney Kerry E Moseley contacted them quote: “He was asking me for MONEY to help April pay her debt to him.” End of quote. IS THERE LEGALLY SUCH A RULING? While several of my colleagues and I search Legal Books of CODE Violations, performed by presiding Judges and their Attorney friends, we solicit your help and suggestions. Ft Worth, TX Judge boldly and arrogantly announced, on several occasions that he and Judge Steve M. King were personal friends. Judge Steve M King made Judgment for April Westbrook, who used undue influence to get a will; being named as Executor… CAN A JUDGE LEGALLY DO THIS?
    abuse-n-da-kingdom@hotmail.com (817)269-6380

    INFO about Attorney Kerry E. Moseley
    On Aug. 19, Kerry Eugene Moseley [#14570500], 56, of Fort Worth agreed to a three-year, partially-probated suspension effective Nov. 1, with the first 60 days actively served and the remainder probated. The 153rd District Court of Tarrant County found Moseley employed a legal assistant for five years who transferred funds from estate trust accounts for her personal use. Moseley was aware of the thefts but failed to terminate the legal assistant or take appropriate action to protect estate funds. Moseley violated Rules 5.03(a). He agreed to pay $5,000 in attorney’s fees and $693 in costs.

    August 24, 2009 at 4:45 am |
  8. al waterforblood

    never talk to the police, never trust any police, raise your own money and have a credible Privaye Investigator do the work. Even honest cops are stupid. And there are no honest cops.

    August 24, 2009 at 4:24 am |
  9. Larry

    Mr. Cooper may have been a journalist, but as the son of Gloria Vanderbilt I doubt that he was in any way struggling.

    August 23, 2009 at 7:45 pm |
  10. Larry

    Mr. Cooper may have been a journalist, but as the son of Gloria Vanderbilt I doubt that he was in any way struggling. Where were Al Sharpton & Jesse Jackson & NAACP & Oprah to supply a forensic pathologist for the defense to question the results of the prosecution?

    August 23, 2009 at 7:30 pm |
  11. Remby

    If a forensic pathologist isn't SURE what they are testifying about, or the science behind it SOLID as rock, then shut the hell up. This is people's lives on the line !!!

    August 23, 2009 at 12:04 am |
  12. Harold Krieg

    How many times, in the past years, have you heard of a person being criminally charged, prosecuted, and jailed for a crime that eventually they were found not to have committed. Even if you answered 1, that 1 person is just too many. It happens more than you can imagine. It is a pandemic.

    I know what I speak of, since for the last 9 plus years, my nearest and dearest friend, Steven Crain, was and still is a victim of being an innocent man being rail-roaded, incarcerated, because of the vindictive, retaliatory, drug using, drug dealing, drug selling, drug trafficking, Regina Hyman, and all because of the fact that Steven would not baby-sit her kids for free. Ms. Hyman filed false charges against him, claiming that Steven had sexually assaulted her daughter. There was never any evidence, just hearsay, and even that had so many lies
    I have seen the proof that Steven is innocent and read the transcripts for his year 2000 case that definitely proves his innocence.

    I will show, and name names of the government officials from the offices of the Clark County District Attorney, Clark County Deputy District Attorney, Clark County Public Defender, Las Vegas Police Department, Nevada Attorney General, Nevada Parole and Probation, Clark County District Court Judges, United States District Court Judges, Therapists, Attorneys, etc, who to this day, refuse to admit that they were wrong.

    The emotional turmoil, the Legal Abuse Syndrome, Steven, to this day, suffer from and the horrific memories of being in jail are even painful to hear about.

    Please help me, help my best friend Steven, for once and for all have his name and reputation cleared.

    Thank you,

    Harold Krieg

    August 22, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  13. Pamela Kulig

    Lynda not to split hairs, but I've heard from people who have been at both Parchman and Walnut Grove that Walnut Grove Juvenile Facility is much, much worse. And that is where Mississippi puts it's kids. The common name for it is "gladiator school".

    August 22, 2009 at 8:44 pm |
  14. Pamela Kulig

    Mr. Danks, Dr. Hayne's lawyer says in the Clarion Ledger his client is not board certified in forensic pathology, but here he is lying to the court:

    HAYNE – DIRECT 240
    1 Q. And what is the meaning of board certified?
    2 A. It usually means that you have passed some
    3 minimal standard test or if you’re old enough, you’ve been
    4 grandfathered into a position of recognized basic
    5 expertise in the field.
    6 Q. All right. Now beyond being a pathologist, to
    7 be a forensic pathologist, does it take additional
    8 training or education?
    9 A. I rotated, myself personally rotated at the
    10 medical examiner’s officers for the city and county of San
    11 Francisco.
    12 Q. For how long, sir?
    13 A. The total? Almost a year.
    14 Q. And have you received any board certifications?
    15 A. Yes,
    16 Q. In what particular field, Doctor?
    17 A. Anatomic pathology, clinical pathology, forensic
    18 pathology, forensic medicine

    :

    August 22, 2009 at 8:10 pm |
  15. Judi

    I want to know when this major story is going to actually hit the airwaves.

    Clearly it is long overdue that someone take this and run with it.

    Lives are depending on it!

    So when it is goign to air?

    August 22, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  16. tom

    Lynda MOrse: Mr. Cooper seems to have forgotten that before Katrina he was just another struggling journalist himself!

    Mr. Cooper is far from being struggling if you do your research.

    As for giving credit for the story< Mr. Cooper deserves a little credit for keeping the spotlight on this subject of Dr. Haynes and putting it on a bigger stage.

    August 22, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  17. Paul Stagg

    I've seen this somewhere before.

    Oh, yeah. Reason Magazine and Radley Balko wrote about it a couple of years ago.

    Why didn't CNN mention that?

    August 22, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  18. Rachel

    It reflects really poorly on CNN that Radley Balko was not credited. Easy to fix, folks.

    August 22, 2009 at 10:05 am |
  19. Thomas

    Great article, just a shame no credit to Radley Balko who did a lot of the real work in getting this story known.

    August 22, 2009 at 9:18 am |
  20. Tom

    "Although Dr. Hayne insists he did nothing wrong, Edmonds thinks he played a major role in his wrongful conviction, and hopes someday he will hear an apology." Is what Tyler said and I agree that he does deserve an apology from Dr. Haynes who was out of line in making the allegations of a two shooter theory. But in the same manner I would like to hear Tyler apologize to his niece and nephew who through his action of giving his sister a gun he took from his home, without permission, never asking for advise about a stray dog, that was used to kill their father.
    To be accountable one has to identify what one has done wrong and atone for those mistakes. Tyler continues to think only of his pain and struggles through this ordeal and forgets about his niece and nephew who will never be able to get back their father.

    Had this been a bank robbery and Tyler's part was only as a get-away driver he still would be responsible for the bank robbery whether he went into the bank or not. In the same light Tyler did supply the gun that killed Joey Fulgham. Tyler was a juvenile at the time and should have been punished as a juvenile and the time that he served would have been that time. What I want Tyler to think about is every birthday he celebrates every Christmas present he gets, that his niece and nephew will be doing the same without their father there with them because Tyler took a gun from his house.

    Tyler was found not guilty but is far from completely innocent and he knows it in his heart.

    August 22, 2009 at 7:09 am |
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