19 February 2009

Long drop. Short rope.

Video Shows Mississippi’s “Bite Mark Expert” Michael West Using a Dental Mold to Create Bite Marks on a Corpse; Implicates Steven Hayne

Short summary: Several months ago, I was able to obtain a pretty shocking video of one of Dr. Michael West’s infamous post-mortem “bite mark examinations.” This particular exam was performed on a 23-month-old Louisiana girl named Haley Oliveaux. As with most cases, Dr. Steven Hayne performed the initial examination on Oliveaux, claimed to have seen bite marks no other doctors saw, then called in West to perform his quackery bite mark analysis. West claimed to have traced the bite marks to Jimmie Duncan, the boyfriend of Oliveaux’s mother, and the man police suspected of murdering the girl. Duncan was convicted of capital murder, and has spent the last 10 years on death row.

The smoking gun video damns West and Hayne in two ways. First, as it opens, West is performing his initial examination. The video clearly shows that when the body of Haley Oliveaux was handed over to West and Hayne, her face was free of any abrasions or bite marks. Her cheek is clean.

The second portion of the video, taken the following day, then shows a striking abrasion. That abrasion could only have been inflicted by someone in Hayne’s office. The video also shows that Hayne must have been lying when he testified at trial that he found bite marks on the Oliveaux’s cheek, then called West in to do an analysis. The first portion of the video, taken after Hayne’s initial exam, shows no such bite marks.

The more obvious thing the video shows is Michael West repeatedly jamming, scraping, and pushing a mold of Jimmie Duncan’s teeth into Haley Oliveaux’s body, actions experts to whom I’ve shown the video say amount to criminal evidence tampering. The excerpt posted at Reason is only 30 seconds long. But the full video spans 24 minutes, during which West uses the mold to desecrate Oliveaux’s body at least 50 times.

The results of West’s “analysis” were then used to help convict Jimmie Duncan of raping and murdering Haley Oliveaux.

Hang them.

(Radley Balko's full story is here; apologies for excerpting his full post above.)


  1. We posted a big excerpt for the same reason, that some of the images are disturbing.

    Of course the story is far more disturbing than the images to me, but I've seen autopsies. On the other hand, Jimmie Duncan isn't dead yet. If the government has its way, his autopsy will conclude "death by heart failure, caused by lethal injection."

    Thanks for blogging on this. Everyone who has a blog should link to Balko's story, because media other than Reason won't.

  2. I had to re-post the whole thing because I know most people don't click through and I thought this is something people really need to read. I fear you're right about this never being carried in most news outlets.

    And yes, the story is plenty disturbing all by itself.