Nomination For Hero Badge

This is one of those stories where the reader thinks they understand the background but doesn’t. The first mistake would be in using the terms Medical Examiner and Coroner interchangeably. They may both be charged with medico-legal death investigation, but that is as far as it goes. In this instance, there are allegations that assistant coroners were getting together with one another, or police officers and a pair of genitals to be named later, while on duty, to bump uglies. There is no indication that any of the participants were customers of the Coroner’s Office. Monroe-county-coroners-lawsuit.

The office of Coroner goes back to the English system of justice. The Coroner is a Magistrate charged with determining the circumstances surrounding death and ruling as to cause.  He holds inquests to determine the facts behind a death and can call a jury to aid in making a ruling. The Coroner made the jump across “the Pond” and was soon ensconced in the American system. Some jurisdictions put the onus on the Justice of the Peace to act as coroner.

So Coroner is a judicial position, and the Coroner may be a candidate for election. The article makes clear that, in this case, Coroner is an elected position. Ability to be elected is required; no background in medical, scientific or death investigation is necessary. The Democratic candidate in the November election, funeral director Thomas Yanac, wants to improve the office’s working environment. The coroner has always been a popular position with the “undertaker set” because the Undertaker/Coroner gets the first crack at all the deceased in the county.

At any rate, the wife of the current coroner, Traci Allen, acts as the office manager for the Coroner’s Office. She alleged that a Deputy Coroner, Fizz, had sex with a police officer while at a death scene. Fizz was fired. Fizz says the tryst never happened and wants her job back. Meanwhile, another Deputy Coroner is claiming that Traci Allen has been displaying male genitalia on her cell phone. She introduced the genitalia to the Deputy Coroner as her latest boyfriend. It’s an election year.

A Medical Examiner, on the other hand, is a physician who usually specializes in pathology or forensic pathology. They typically bring a more scientific and disciplined approach to death investigations. It sounds good but probably isn’t nearly as fun.

Any cop who has had to deal with a Justice of the Peace as Coroner can probably tell a dozen stories like this:

Jacob’s Well, Wimberley, Texas, late 70’s. I recovered the body of a SCUBA diver, twenty-four hours after he was first reported missing.  He became disorientated and trapped in the underwater cave. The JP standing on the bank fifty yards away, who could not see the body from his vantage point, shouted out, “He’s been down twenty-four hours unless he can hold his breath that long, he’s dead.”

San Marcos, Texas, late 70’s, an outlaw motorcyclist, at two in the morning falls off his motorcycle, just below the crest of a hill. He is subsequently run over by two eighteen wheelers. There was a fifty-yard trail of blood and body parts from the point of impact to where the body came to rest. The local JP, known for spectacular acts of stupidity, was seen to be checking for the carotid pulse. The biker’s brain was mostly intact, ten feet from the body. Note to self, if you want to get the JP to authorize an autopsy, do not point out beforehand to all and sundry that the JP is an idiot.

San Marcos, Texas, the early 80’s. The paterfamilias was spending a quiet Sunday afternoon working on his car, out in the garage. His wife prepared a sandwich and went out to tell him lunch was ready. She discovered him under the car and dead. She called family and then as an afterthought EMS.

The paramedics arrived and quickly determined the old guy was deceased. They decided so quickly they didn’t bother to drag him from under the car.  Twenty minutes later the JP arrived, (this was the smart one).

By this time, a substantial number of friends and family, going out three generations and including third cousins were in the house. Each had apparently brought food and beer. There were fifty people crammed into the house, laughing, crying, talking and in general having a good time. Most of the visiting was taking place in the kitchen. The JP walked in and observed a two-year-old asleep on the couch. The judge had a set routine when he pronounced somebody dead. I watched him go into his wind-up and pronounce the child dead.

I then took him out to the garage and pointed out the real guest of honor. This guy is still under the car, the only part of him visible is from the knees down. The JP went into his wind-up and stated, “This one’s dead too!”

The old ways are not necessarily better. There is a reason a coffin used to come equipped with a bell.