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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Criminal Justice Quote: The Decline of the Coroner's Office

     The office of coroner fell out of favor toward the end of the nineteenth century, as too many coroners were shown to be venal, corrupt, or incompetent. For a fee, a corrupt coroner might certify a suicide as an accidental death, allowing the relatives of the deceased to collect the life insurance. A coroner in Brooklyn, New York, who was paid by the coroner's inquest hearing, had the body of a drowned man moved from place to place around the East River waterfront and held multiple inquests over the same corpse.

     The office of coroner is disappearing around the United States, with coroners being replaced by medical examiners who are medical doctors trained in forensic pathology. In some jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles County, the title of coroner is kept, but the position is filled by a trained forensic pathologist. [In many states coroner offices still exist in rural counties. Coroners are elected into office, medical examiners are appointed.]

Michael Kurland, How to Try a Murder, 1997 

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