Over the weekend, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced that 51-year-old Albert Johnson had been arrested for the brutal rape and murder of two three-year-old girls in the 1990s. Johnson had been an early suspect in both cases, but despite the fact that the state had samples of his DNA on file for more than a decade, it never bothered to test it against the DNA found in the little girls.
That's because Mississippi District Attorney Forrest Allgood decided early on in both cases that he had his man, and little could convince him otherwise. One of those men is Kennedy Brewer, a mentally handicapped man who served more than a decade on Mississippi's Death Row, then served another five years even after DNA evidence had cleared him. Allgood insisted on retrying Brewer anyway, arguing that bite marks on the little girl's body matched Brewer's teeth.
Curiously, Allgood resisted testing the DNA from the crime scene against that of a man he had earlier convicted of an eerily similar crime—another rape and murder of a young girl in the same area. It now seems clear why Allgood resisted the test. As it turns out, the man he'd convicted for that crime, Levon Brooks, is innocent, too. Brooks had been sentenced to life in prison.
It was the efforts of Innocence Project which led to Kennedy Brewer being exonerated and saved from the death penalty. This is just the story of two men who have been caught up in a systematic effort to deny justice.
Justice is supposed to be blind. It is supposed to equitable. It is supposed to be justice. But sadly, once again, Mississippi is proving to be anything but just.
"It’s well known across Mississippi that Steven Hayne works closely with police and prosecutors to make determinations in autopsies that suit their criminal investigations and prosecutions. It’s also well known that Michael West will dispense with professionalism and objectivity to provide favorable testimony for prosecutors, even if his misrepresentations and fabrications could lead to the execution of innocent people. Their hubris and misconduct sent the innocent Brewer to death row and the innocent Levon Brooks to languish in prison for the rest of his life," Neufeld said. "These cases are an urgent call for a thorough review of how crime scene evidence gets analyzed and makes it into Mississippi courtrooms and how we can make sure only the most credible, objective, reliable science is used in criminal cases."
District Attorney Allgood, Dr. Steven Hayne, and Dr. West, prosecutors, and criminal investigators across the state have made Mississippi's justice system a mockery. But a complacent citizenry allows it to go on. Think about Brewer and Brooks. They could be your brother, father, or husband in the hands of a flawed and unjust system. I'm starting a petition. I urge others in Mississippi to do the same. Below is one that I created.