Coroners are elected; some have no credentials other than a high school diploma and if they meet residency requirements of the county where they are running for election, “they can be a coroner if they have enough friends”, according to a local news reporter.
Coroners believe they answer to no one; make their own rules and are capable of convicting the innocent or coverup the guilty at will with their cause of death statement.
In the Montgomery County Pennsylvania case of Raymond Marc Zachry, the family of the decedent followed all the rules to obtain the autopsy report of their son, as they were instructed in October 2007.
The Souderton Pennsylvania Police report states unattended death, one of the criteria for an autopsy and death investigation. One family is still searching for answers nearly five years later – and only false promises from the local coroner.
Their son died September 25, 2007.
Wyoming, known for Death Valley: their citizens had enough of a power grab by their local coroner, Marty Luna, who would refuse information to the family of a decedent and a firestorm began.
This editoral is one of a series posted in the local Wyoming Tribune Newspaper.
Reprinted from archives of Wyoming Tribune Eagle with permission of Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc. copyright December 5, 2009. All rights reserved.
Coroners work for the publicWyoming’s coroners appear to have forgotten who they work for.Hint: It is not their local police departments.
Hint No. 2: It is not the families of the deceased.Still not clear? Then pull out your paycheck and take a look at the signature line, Mr. Coroner. It’s the people who pay your salary.This issue arose at the State Capitol recently in a hearing over proposed legislation by state Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, that would require coroners to release “as much information as is not privileged or confidential” in their reports on deaths.State law already says coroner’s reports are public documents, but much debate remains over how much of the attending documents, such as toxicology and police reports, should be public. Our response: all of it. More on that in a moment.During debate on the bill, the coroners worried that if they were required to release such things as police reports that they would get crosswise with the law enforcement agencies that provide them. And Laramie County Coroner Marty Luna asserted he has a “higher obligation to the decedent and the family than I do to the public.”All of this fails to take into account that it is the voters who put these men and women into office — and whose taxes pay their salaries.If Mr. Luna wants to take care of the dead and their families, he can open a funeral parlor. And if coroners want to appease local law enforcement, then they can meet for coffee in the mornings.Some will argue — wrongly — that people want to see coroner’s reports simply because they are nosy. That shows ignorance of what public documents are for. They are made available so taxpayers can measure their officials’ performance and make certain no mistakes or tomfoolery occurs.As for what documents should be made available from coroners, our answer would be to turn all of them loose. Not only should the coroner’s report be available, so should every document that the coroner uses to make his or her decisions.The coroners argued that they should not have to supply documents like police reports. But they answer to the public. Why should people have to gather a document here and a document there when they can be attached to the report? Besides, if the law says coroners must provide these documents, that should quell law enforcement’s cries.And while we don’t mean to be sarcastic with Mr. Luna, he is missing the bigger picture. His role as coroner is more than just serving families. Indeed, his work can guarantee the success, or failure, of other parts of the legal system as officials go about solving cases and prosecuting criminals.We prefer that Mr. Case not back off of his proposal. But at a minimum, the law should make public all documents generated by coroners, such as toxicological reports. There is no good reason for the coroners not to release all of the documents that they compile as they do their very public jobs.
- When coroners make mistakes (justiceforraymond.wordpress.com)
- Distress ‘regrettable’ in Coke delay (nzherald.co.nz)
- How many Coroners does it take? (leoniefennell.wordpress.com)
- Fraud, forgery, perjury added to sudden death – no investigation (justiceforraymond.wordpress.com)
- Another pre-trial is scheduled in this case (justiceforraymond.wordpress.com)
- Inaccurate cause of death recorded for one in four patients (guardian.co.uk)
- Coroner qualifications; virtually non-existent in most jurisdictions (justiceforraymond.wordpress.com)