Reports and Publications
Review of book by M. Lee Goff that uses case studies to explain the process by which different species of bugs break down decomposing bodies.
National Association of Medical Examiners. Drafted to improve uniformity in manner of death determinations for death certificates. View additional position papers and accreditation information on the NAME website.
U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. A best-practices guide for death scene investigators produced by the National Medicolegal Review Panel, an independent multidisciplinary group of both international and national organizations whose constituents are responsible for investigating death.
The Health In Justice Action Lab of the Northeastern University School of Law has created a toolkit for attorneys defending death by distribution of drugs. This toolkit will be useful to defenders in handling charges of this sort in NC, both for the old murder by distribution and the new death by distribution.
See pp. 241-268 for the National Research Council’s assessment of the disciplines of forensic pathology and death investigation.
Investigative series compiled by Pro Publica, in partnership investigation with NPR and Frontline that looks at the nation’s 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices and reports on problems identified with the system.
2001 report by the North Carolina Medical Examiner Study Group was requested by the legislature in part in response to a series of news articles that raised concerns about the quality of death investigation in North Carolina. The report provides information about the structure and responsibilities of the Medical Examiner system and makes a number of recommendations for improving the system including improved training, utilization of trained death investigators, and assuring adequate resources for the performance of death investigation and autopsies throughout the state.
This 2001 report by the North Carolina Medical Examiner Study Group was requested by the legislature in part in response to a series of news articles that raised concerns about the quality of death investigation in North Carolina. The report provides information about the structure and responsiblities of the Medical Examiner system and makes a number of recommendations for improving the system including improved training, utilization of trained death investigators, and assuring adequate resources for the performance of death investigation and autopsies throughout the state.
U.S. Department of Justice, FBI Laboratory Division. Provides guidance and procedures for methods of collecting, preserving, packaging, and shipping evidence and describes the forensic examinations performed by the FBI’s Laboratory Division and Operational Technology Division.
From the Blog
- Attorneys have asked me what discovery should be available from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in cases where an autopsy was performed by that office. The Autopsy Report is a public record. It can be requested through the OCME website, or it can be provided through discovery. Photos, videos, or audio recordings of …
- Homicide: Manner of Death vs. Legal Conclusion, 12/12/2019Like many other experts, medical examiners use terms of art which might be confusing for non-experts. The use of the term “homicide” to classify a death might confuse jurors and attorneys alike. It may, therefore, be worthwhile to take steps to ensure that a medical examiner’s testimony conveys the proper information despite using a potentially …
- On Friday, August 30, 2019, a group of 20 attorneys, investigators, and law students visited the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME). The group met with Dr. Michelle Aurelius, who became the Chief Medical Examiner following Dr. Deborah Radisch’s retirement earlier this summer. The group also met with Brad Brecher, the Agency Legal Consultant …
- There will be an autopsy viewing and tour of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Raleigh for defense attorneys on Friday, August 30th, 2019 starting at 8:45 am. Attorneys and defense investigators will have an opportunity to witness an autopsy and then engage in a guided tour of the OCME and its toxicology …
- According to the North American Entomology Association, it is easy for investigators to attribute postmortem damage to a body due to insect activity to antemortem occurrences. Studies have shown that the insects that feed on decaying bodies often leave behind marks or abrasions that can be misinterpreted by investigators. A recent study conducted at the …
- Cognitive Bias and Forensic Anthropology, 8/4/2014A study looking at how the conclusions of forensic anthropologists may be influenced by extraneous information highlights the importance of protecting all scientists from potentially biasing information. Forensic anthropologists determine the gender, national origin, and age of a person at the time of death. In some cases this determination must be based solely on skeletal …
- Researchers at Texas State University’s forensic anthropology research facility, one of the country’s five “body farms,” have discovered that failure to take into account the role of vultures may have affected time of death calculations in homicide investigations. See Associated Press coverage here. The scientists observed a flock of vultures reduce a corpse that had …
The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence is offering this free webinar program.
Given the vital role of medical examiners and coroners (ME/C) in recognizing emerging trends in drug overdose deaths, partnering epidemiologists with ME/C offices can greatly enhance the utility of the significant volume of data generated by medicolegal death investigation. Epidemiologists from three unique ME jurisdictions—North Carolina, New Mexico and Virginia—share their experiences with monitoring drug overdose deaths, trends observed, and how best to utilize ME/C data to inform public health policy.
Detailed Learning Objectives:
1) Describe the potential role of epidemiologists in medical examiner offices and how they can assist in utilizing medicolegal death investigation data.
2) Understand current trends in drug overdose deaths as analyzed by three large statewide ME jurisdictions.
3) Understand the challenge of balancing state-mandated priorities with research and public health outreach.
Dr. Sarah L. Lathrop
Kathrin ‘Rosie’ Hobron
Bartleby.com edition of Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body features 1,247 illustrations and a subject index with 13,000 entries.
The Medicolegal Death Investigation Subcommittee of OSAC focuses on standards and guidelines related to sudden, unnatural, unexplained or suspicious deaths, including homicides, suicides, unintentional fatal injuries, drug-related deaths and other deaths that are sudden or unexpected; determination of the cause and manner of death.
The North Carolina Medical Examiner System is a network of medical doctors and allied health professionals throughout North Carolina who voluntarily devote their time, energy, and medical expertise to see that deaths of a suspicious, unusual or unnatural nature are adequately investigated. The OCME investigates all deaths in North Carolina due to injury or violence, as well as natural deaths that are suspicious, unusual, or unattended by a medical professional.
The NIJ has a number of free or low cost software tools that may be of assistance in understanding forensic evidence disciplines of digital forensics, arson investigation, DNA, death investigation, and more.
Sample direct and cross-examinations of various forensic witnesses, including a firearm/toolmark expert, fingerprint expert, pathologist, DNA expert, and other forensic experts.
Motions and Briefs
- Order of Dismissal with Prejudice – 2011 Superior Court order dismissing the charge of first degree murder with prejudice where forensic evidence was destroyed prior to the defense having the opportunity to examine it, despite defendant’s filing of a motion to preserve evidence. The Court found that material and favorable evidence to the defendant was intentionally destroyed and that the defendant suffered irreparable prejudice as a result of the violation of his constitutional and statutory rights.
- Court of Appeals decision – reverses the trial court’s order granting the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Vacates trial court’s order imposing discovery sanctions against the State.
Death Investigation in the News
- Forensic Anthropologists Provide Fire Investigation Training to Federal, State, Local Agencies, Forensic Magazine, 4/7/2020
- Piled Bodies, Overflowing Morgues: Inside America’s Autopsy Crisis, by Jordan Kisner, New York Times, 2/25/2020
- Chief medical examiner ‘in awe’ of DNA error, promises cross-contamination was one-off, by Ariana Kelland, CBC News, 1/27/2020
- Epstein’s Autopsy ‘Points to Homicide,’ Pathologist Hired by Brother Claims, by Azi Paybarah, New York Times, 10/30/2019
- Can a High-Tech Sniffer Help Keep Us Safe?, by NIST, NIST, 9/10/2019
- Judge releases Dontae Sharpe after 24 years in prison, by Deborah Griffin, Reflector, 8/23/2019
- Wrongfully imprisoned for 43 years. Here’s the story of how he was freed., by Keith Barber, Raleigh News & Observer, 7/10/2019
- Mark Redwine’s defense team receives assistance with cadaver dog evidence (CO), by Bret Hauff, Durango Herald, 6/27/2019
Death Investigation Experts
- John L. Almeida, M.D., F.C.A.P., Jacksonville, NC
- Jonathan L. Arden, MD, VA
- William Bass, Ph.D., Knoxville, TN
- Robert C. Bux, MD, Colorado Springs, CO
- Dr. Yale H. Caplan, Ph.D., D-ABFT, Baltimore, MD
- MGF Gilliland, M.D., Greenville, NC
- Lee Goff, Ph.D., Kaneohe, HI
- Neal H. Haskell, Ph.D., Rensselaer, IN
- Karen Kelly, M.D., Greenville, NC
- Patrick Lantz, MD, Winston-Salem, NC
- Louis A. Levy, MD, San Antonio, TX
- Murray Marks, Ph.D., Knoxville, TN
- J. Thomas (Tom) McClintock, Ph.D., Lynchburg, VA
- John Meyer, Ph.D., Raleigh, NC
- George R. Nichols II, MD, Louisville, KY
- William Oliver, M.D., Seymour, TN
- Janice Ophoven, MD, Woodbury, MN
- Thomas Owens, MD, Harrisburg, NC
- Jonathan Privette, M.D., Charlotte, NC
- Christena Roberts, MD, Black Mountain, NC
- Thomas A. Sporn, MD, Durham, NC