Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Coroner's Role in Death Investigations

In Idaho the general duties of the coroner are described in Idaho Statutes,Title 31 -Counties and County Law, Chapter 28 .

The county coroner has some particular statutory responsibilities whenever someone in the county dies. In Idaho the county coroner must investigate a death resulting from:

  • Violence, whether homicidal, suicidal, or accidental

  • Suspicious or unknown circumstances

  • When not attended by a physician during his last illness and the cause of death cannot be certified by a physician.

  • In Idaho the county coroner is an elected official. S/he is not required to be a board certified forensic pathologist or even a medical doctor. Thus, if a medicolegal autopsy is required, it must be performed by a forensic pathologist. The medicolegal autopsy's purpose is to determine the cause, manner and mode of death.

    The cause of death is the pathological condition which was the immediate cause of death. The manner of death is the method by which death was caused. The mode of death addresses the intent or lack of it by the person using something to inflict death. Typically, the mode of death is described as natural, accidental, homicidal, or suicidal.

    For example, a victim's cause of death might be a severed aorta. The manner of death might be a knife wound that severed the aorta resulting from someone wielding a knife. In this example the mode of death could not be natural but would be accidental (if unintentionally inflicted such as in a hunting accident), homicidal (if intentionally though not necessarily criminally inflicted by another), or suicidal (if self-inflicted).

    The term "suicide by cop" is being used more frequently in the news media to describe a victim who has died at the hands of a law enforcement officer when it was the victim's apparent intent that the officer cause the victim's death. This type of death is more accurately categorized as a justifiable or excusable homicide, depending on the laws of the state in which the action occurred.

    If a coroner has reasonable grounds to believe that death occurred as a result of violence or under suspicious or unknown circumstances, the coroner can convene a coroner's inquest. The coroner's inquest or coroner's jury consists of six residents qualified by law to be summoned for jury duty. The inquest can examine all the physical and forensic evidence as well as question witnesses and investigators.


    Blogger stebbijo said...

    That was really informative. There is a 'cold case' that I know of that did not get an autopsy/coronor request for what ever the reason...I would like to know more about. They must not have thought it was a "suspicious death," but I have never been convinced otherwize....

    Idaho shot down the chance for an ME ...why?

    7:10 PM, January 24, 2005  

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