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Could the El Paso County Coroner lose creditability in court?

As you may already know, when people are killed, a coroner performs an autopsy and determines whether the death was an accident or a murder before criminal charges can be brought by police. The autopsy by the coroner is then used in court as evidence to show how a person died and if any drugs or alcohol were in the victim's system at the time.

The El Paso County Coroner's Office has been very busy following a rash of shooting deaths and a fatal car accident in the county over the past few weekends. In fact, if the Coroner's Office continues to handle cases at this rate, it could lose accreditation and therefore lose its credibility in court, Fox 21 News reported.

The El Paso County Coroner said that his office has seen an eight-year increase in cases.

"Since I've been the coroner the workload is up 75 percent, and that's in less than five full years," he said.

Between July 9 and 18 the County Coroner said his team performed a total of 24 autopsies. Because there are only three forensic pathologists in the office, this amounts to 300 cases for each person, he said.

If one of the forensic examiners hits 325 cases and stays there, the National Association of Medical Examiners could take away the office's accreditation, which in turn would mean losing credibility in court.

This could present a huge problem for the county prosecutors, who usually depend heavily on the autopsy to prove their cases.

However, the County Coroner intends to ask the El Paso County Commissioners for an additional forensic pathologist in the 2012 budget, which would ease the workload.

The office may also have a good chance at adding another member to its team because it has the only on-site forensic toxicology lab and performs about 75 percent of the toxicology reports for the rest of the state, Fox 21 News reported.

Source: Fox 21 News, "Coroner's workload up 75 percent in 5 years," Sade Malloy, 7/19/2011.

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