Some common questions come up in homicide cases when a defense attorney needs to access information from the OCME and regional autopsy centers and speak with the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy in the case. This post addresses some of these questions using information obtained from the four offices that perform autopsies for North Carolina forensic cases (Raleigh OCME, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office, and East Carolina University, Brody School of Medicine, Division of Autopsy and Forensic Services).
Is there a charge for a defense attorney to consult with the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy?
To speak to the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on the decedent in the case,
- There is no charge at the Raleigh OCME or Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to consult with attorneys regarding autopsies performed in these centers.
- Standard AOC rates apply at Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office or East Carolina University, Brody School of Medicine, Division of Autopsy and Forensic Services.
- If the forensic pathologist is retired or separated from one of these offices, contact the expert to discuss their rates.
Attorneys should reach out to the forensic pathologist to schedule an appointment and verify whether the funding authorization is needed.
- For potentially capital cases, funding should be sought using the IDS-028 form.
- For non-capital cases, funding should be sought using the AOC-G-309 form.
- For more information about these forms, navigate the ‘Experts’ tab on the IDS forensic website.
What materials are typically provided through discovery?
Investigative reports, autopsy reports, and toxicology reports are provided routinely to the District Attorney’s office and should be provided to the defense through discovery. All three of these forms can also be requested by defense counsel from the OCME website (https://www.ocme.dhhs.nc.gov/docrequest.asp).
Autopsy photos are received from the prosecution through discovery, not from the ME’s office.
Additional items, such as handwritten notes, case calls, emails or other case correspondence, x-rays, etc., are not part of the standard items provided to the DA’s office. If the prosecution requests any of these additional items, they would then be provided to the defense through discovery.
Third-party records that are provided to the ME’s office for review are not provided without a court order.
For more information about what additional records may be available, visit https://forensicresources.org/2020/what-records-are-available-in-a-death-investigation-case/.