CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, February 25, 2008

New York Autopsies Called into Question

From An attorney for a New York woman charged with manslaughter in the 2003 death of her 3-year-old daughter in Jackson wants the state to review the autopsy findings.

State pathologist Dr. Steven Hayne ruled that the child died of suffocation. Under state law, a petition can be filed with the state medical examiner, asking for further review of an autopsy conclusion.

But Tina Funderburk's attorney, Hinds County Assistant Public Defender Matthew Eichelberger, said that since there is no state medical examiner, his request might be moot.

"This further review is even more important in Tina's case because of the strange manner in which Dr. Hayne reached his conclusion," Eichelberger said.

Hayne reached his decision after a forensic anthropologist at the University of Southern Mississippi said she couldn't determine the cause of death from the remains, Eichelberger said.

Funderburk, 32, is charged with killing Reina Russell. Funderburk told police she left the child in June 2003 in a wooded, swampy area near the old Jackson Greyhound bus terminal on Jefferson Street. She was passing through with her daughter and son on a bus trip from New York.

Funderburk said she lost her way when she went back to get the child. Authorities later found the child's remains.

Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart asked Hayne to perform an autopsy on the child's remains. Hayne then engaged the services of Dr. Marie Danforth, a forensic anthropologist, to determine the cause of death, according to Eichelberger.

In the petition for further review, Eichelberger said, "Despite the fact that Dr. Danforth could determine neither the cause or manner of death, Dr. Hayne reported to Ms. Grisham-Stewart the cause of death was suffocation."

The petition said Grisham-Stewart accepted Hayne's conclusion without further review or investigation. Hayne said Tuesday he only vaguely remembers the case, but he couldn't discuss it because it was still an open case.

Hayne's work has come under scrutiny in several recent cases. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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