Election night was a mixed bag, you could say, not just for those who voted, campaigned, or otherwise supported the candidates who lost the popular vote, but also for the justice system at large.  Mississippi is one of the states that held elections yesterday.  Longtime district attorney Forrest Allgood was defeated by his challenger Scott Colom.  Allgood had been D.A. since 1989 for the 16th judicial district.  He is one of the most aggressive prosecutors the United States has seen and is a vocal defender of notorious medical examiner Steven Hayne and disgraced “bite-mark expert” Michael West.

Allgood continues to surround himself with dubious and controversial people.  West is considered a fraud even in the junk science of bite-mark analysis.  Allgood once said that West was just like Copernicus, a scientist misunderstood.

Allgood is most notorious for prosecuting Tyler Edmonds; a 13-year-old boy whose murder conviction was overturned after the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that Hayne gave unscientific testimony.  In 1990, Allgood won the conviction of an 18-year-old mentally challenged woman for killing her son.  That conviction was also overturned this time because Allgood himself committed misconduct when he told the jury that the fact the woman didn’t testify in her own defense was an implication of guilt (a person has a right to choose to testify or not without inference of guilt).  She was later released from prison when the medical examiner Allgood used at trial (this time not Hayne) acknowledged his findings were wrong and that the child died from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) or kidney disease.

Allgood prosecuted Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, two men convicted of two very similar murders of two little girls just a couple miles apart in the early 1990s.  After the first murder, Allgood brought his trusted “expert” Hayne on board and then his other trusted “expert” West.  The two claimed to have found bite marks on the girl that no one else could see and “matched” them to Levon Brooks, a suspect in the case.  He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  In 1992, a second girl was killed in a very similar manner.  This time, Allgood, Hayne, and West picked Brewer and once against used bite-mark “evidence” to convict him.  He was sentenced to death.

DNA exonerated Brewer in 2001, Allgood still defended the conviction forcing Brewer to remain in jail for an additional 7 years.  In 2008, DNA from the case was run through a criminal database and it matched Brooks’ case as well.  The two cases matched a man named Justin Albert Johnson, who immediately confessed.

Allgood defends his record though and his use of discredited and suspect “experts”.  In 2011, the Mississippi Supreme Court admonished Allgood, a rare thing, for inappropriate comments he made to a jury during a murder case.  Colom defeated Allgood by stressing treatment over incarceration for drug offenders and a promise to seek shorter sentences for non-violent offenders.  Let’s hope that Allgood’s record also had something to do with it, but if A.G. Hood is an example of who can win an election in Mississippi, it probably didn’t.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood will continue his reign.  Hood is a friend of Allgoods and calls him a “straight arrow”, who “always play[s] it by the rules”.  Hood has maintained his office by pushing his “tough-on-crime” policies, with his overly enthusiastic defense of the death penalty.  However, these policies have side effects.

Hood is a staunch defender of Hayne and even utilized him in some cases.  In fact, when Hayne was barred from conducting state autopsies just a few years ago, Hood led an effort to restore him.  Hood did acknowledge that West has credibility issues, but didn’t do anything about it, in fact, his office continues to defend convictions won on the cornerstone of West’s doubtful testimony, including a death penalty case (death row inmate Eddie Lee Howard).

Last time Hood was up for re-election, his challenger Steve Simpson made Hayne and West a campaign issue, but he still won.  Hood of course has a long list of scandalous behavior including long associations with unscrupulous people (including a wealthy trial lawyer who he once called a confidential informant who is suspected of bribing a judge), a vendetta against Google, and a disdain for free speech and electronic privacy (while he maintains public officials should have privacy protections).

He will be Mississippi’s Attorney General for 4 more years.




Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s