Autopsy reports used to reveal incompetency, corruption, but Oklahoma legislators want to stop public access to such records
- The FBI recently began investigating three post-Katrina police shootings in New Orleans because of a series published by ProPublica and others. Two experts said an autopsy report raised questions about one of the fatal shootings and its circumstances. One of the experts called the New Orleans coroner’s forensic work in the case “incomplete at best.”
- In Florida, an associate state medical examiner was found to have falsified several autopsy reports. His license to perform autopsies in Missouri had been revoked earlier because he fabricated autopsy reports there.
- In Tennessee, the state medical examiner was stripped of his job and later his medical license after two investigations concluded he had botched autopsies and lied on some autopsy reports. In one case, for example, he concluded a man died of multiple stab wounds but another forensic pathologist later said the wounds were "cuts from a glass table that the deceased fell on when he died.” In another, he determined a death was caused by sudden-infant death syndrome but a review of the autopsy found the child died of acute cocaine intoxication.
- In Texas, a former medical examiner was convicted of falsifying autopsies in three counties.
The legislation would close access to "information contained in an autopsy report providing the 'manner of death' as homicide, unknown or pending until discoverable under law."
Lamons has pointed out that Tulsa police still solved homicides even though it never asked the medical examiner to withhold information
- Dank, David, R-Oklahoma City
- Collins, Wallace, D-Norman
- McDaniel, Jeannie, D-Tulsa
- McDaniel, Randy, R-Edmond
- Murphey, Jason W., R-Guthrie
- Russ, Todd, R-Cordell
- Sanders, Mike, R-Kingfisher
- Scott, Seneca, D-Tulsa
- Watson, Weldon, , R-Tulsa,
- Wright, Harold, R-Weatherford
By signing the pledge, these House members had promised “to support at every opportunity the public policy of the State of Oklahoma that the people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government so that they can efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power.”
Even though Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, voted for the bill, he has said he does not support making information on the reports completely confidential.
"I think we need to be very cautious in going down that road,” Coffee said. "There may be some issues about when things are released and being able to build a case. But a blanket confidentiality is probably overshooting the issue.”
It sure would.
- Senate OKs bill to keep autopsy information confidential, by Barbara Hoberock, Tulsa World, 4.16.10.
- Oklahoma lawmakers eye autopsy proposal, by Julie Bisbee, The Oklahoman, 4.16.10.
- Bill would keep autopsies secret, by Amanda Guerra, KOCO, 4.16.10.
- Whittling away: Autopsy records bill should be shelved, editorial, The Oklahoman, 3.31.10.
- House passes autopsy-closure bill, by Barbara Hoberock & Nicole Marshall, Tulsa World, 3.10.10.