is a possibility of a missed homicide. Such cases often are not aggressively pursued by either police or non-medical coroners. Confronted with the death of a 30-year-old woman, who dies apparently of a heart attack, a lay coroner would most likely not do an autopsy, but a medical examiner would, given its medical implausibility. Similarly, many lay coroners do not autopsy burned bodies, but a medical examiner would investigate the possibility of homicide masked as an accident. By interviewing, the medical examiner might uncover evidence of a crime.

A medical examiner brings important skills to the interview of next of kin and others who provide a medical history.

Scientific Evidence in the Courtroom: Introductory Comments

David H. Kaye

One of the most important issues facing the legal system is the development of a credible and objective process to determine which deaths to investigate, how to investigate them, what constitutes a thorough investigation, and how to keep suspicious deaths and homicides from being overlooked. Accurate evidence from a death investigation should be used in court to convict the guilty and protect the innocent.

Our current legal system has two problems. The first is its adversarial nature: expert witnesses can be pressured, or selected, to take one-sided positions. The courtroom can be turned into a battle of experts, which is highly confusing to a jury. How can the system be structured to produce objective evidence that will not produce such battles?

A second problem arises from the disparity in resources between criminal prosecution and defense. It is a rarity for the defense to mount its own death investigation with the same resources as the prosecution. If the prosecution's coroner or medical examiner is negligent, biased, or inept, miscarriages of justice are inevitable. In an egregious example, a pathologist in Texas single-handedly performed 450 autopsies a year for 40 Texas counties. Exhumations of some of the corpses revealed an absence of marks on the bodies, indicating that no autopsy had been performed. The system needs to be structured in



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