2010 Regular Session
To: Judiciary B
By: Representatives Evans (91st), Akins, Bailey, Banks, Bell, Bondurant, Calhoun, Clarke, Currie, Dedeaux, DuVall, Eaton, Ellis, Fredericks, Gardner, Gibbs, Harrison, Hines, Holloway, Johnson, Jones (111th), Lane, Mayo, McBride, Middleton, Myers, Peranich, Puckett, Read, Reynolds, Robinson, Smith (27th), Staples, Straughter, Sullivan, Thomas, Upshaw, Ward, Whittington, Wooten
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 41-61-57, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE THAT THE MEDICAL EXAMINERS USED BY CORONERS MUST BE CERTIFIED IN PATHOLOGY BY THE AMERICAN BOARD OF PATHOLOGY AND BE ON THE LIST OF APPROVED MEDICAL EXAMINERS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY; TO BRING FORWARD SECTIONS 41-61-53 AND 41-61-55, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, WHICH PROVIDE DEFINITIONS FOR THE MEDICAL EXAMINER ACT AND PROVIDE FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF THE STATE MEDICAL EXAMINER, FOR THE PURPOSES OF AMENDMENT; TO PROVIDE THAT THE REVISED QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE POSITION OF COUNTY MEDICAL EXAMINER SHALL APPLY TO ANY PERSON HOLDING THAT POSITION ON JULY 1, 2010; TO REQUIRE THE REVIEW OF FORENSIC EVIDENCE IN CERTAIN CAPITAL CASES TO DETERMINE IF ANY EVIDENCE IS TAINTED AND IF ANY VERDICT WAS ADVERSELY AFFECTED; TO REQUIRE THE ATTORNEY GENERAL TO PETITION FOR APPROPRIATE RELIEF WHEN NECESSARY; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 41-61-57, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
41-61-57. (1) There are hereby created the positions of county medical examiners and county medical examiner investigators, to be established as herein provided through successful completion of the death investigation training school provided for in subsection (5) of this section. Each county medical examiner (CME) shall be a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or osteopathic medicine (D.O.) licensed in the State of Mississippi. Each county medical examiner investigator (CMEI) shall be a nonphysician who shall, as a minimum, possess a high school graduation diploma or its equivalent. Extra consideration for the CMEI position may be given for experience and/or training in health-related fields and medicolegal death investigations.
(2) Each coroner elected in the 1987 general election and thereafter, upon successful completion of the death investigation training school provided for in subsection (5) of this section, shall be recognized as a county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator, according to the qualifications set out in subsection (1) of this section, and shall be designated the chief for the county in which he was elected. If the elected or appointed coroner fails to successfully complete the death investigation training school, and thus is unable to take the oath of office, as provided in Section 19-21-105, there shall promptly be appointed a coroner pro tempore in the manner prescribed by Section 9-1-27, and that person shall be designated the chief county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator until the time of the next death investigation training school, which he must successfully complete or be removed from office. Any elected coroner who has failed to successfully complete the death investigation training school may attend any subsequent death investigation training school conducted during the term for which he was elected, and upon the successful completion thereof, he shall become the chief CME or CMEI for the county in which he was elected. The coroner pro tempore then shall become a deputy CME or CMEI, provided he has successfully completed the death investigation training school. Notwithstanding anything in this section to the contrary, each coroner holding office on July 1, 1986, shall be the chief CME or CMEI for the county in which he was elected through the expiration of his term in January 1988 without having to attend the death investigation training school; however, he may voluntarily attend any such school conducted prior to that time.
(3) There shall be at least one (1) county medical examiner and/or county medical examiner investigator for each county, and one (1) county medical examiner or county medical examiner investigator shall be designated as the chief for each county, except as otherwise provided in subsection (4) of this section. Any county may have deputy county medical examiners or deputy county medical examiner investigators as deemed necessary who shall be appointed jointly by the board of supervisors and the CME or CMEI. However, when the population of a county reaches a total of twenty thousand (20,000) or greater, there shall be one or more officially appointed deputies. Deputies shall be subject to the same qualifications, training and certification requirements, and shall possess the same authority and discharge the same duties, as other county medical examiners or county medical examiner investigators, and shall receive fees and expenses as provided in Sections 41-61-69 and 41-61-75. Any CME or CMEI may be removed by the State Medical Examiner prior to the expiration of his term as CME or CMEI for inefficiency, or other good cause, after written notice and a hearing in compliance with due process law.
(4) One (1) person may serve as the chief CME or CMEI for two (2) or more adjacent counties when that person consents and the boards of supervisors of each county involved and the State Medical Examiner consent in writing. Each respective county involved shall be responsible for payment for the services given to that county by the chief CME or CMEI.
(5) Chief and deputy CME's and CMEI's shall attend the death investigation training school provided by the Mississippi Crime Laboratory and the State Medical Examiner, and shall successfully complete subsequent testing on the subject material by the State Medical Examiner at least once every four (4) years. Room, board and transportation expenses for attending the school shall be borne by the county in which the CME or CMEI is serving. In addition to the above training, the individual shall receive at least twenty-four (24) hours annually of continuing education as prescribed and certified by the State Medical Examiner. If the above requirements for training or continuing education are not met, the individual immediately shall be disqualified and removed from office as CME and/or CMEI. Reapplication for the office may be made the following year after removal.
(6) If a coroner uses a medical examiner for any purpose, the medical examiner shall possess the qualifications provided for county medical examiners in subsection (1) and he shall be certified in pathology by the American Board of Pathology and he must be on the list of approved medical examiners of the Department of Public Safety.
SECTION 2. Section 41-61-53, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:
41-61-53. For the purposes of Sections 41-61-51 through 41-61-79, the following definitions shall apply:
(a) "Certification of death" means signing the death certificate.
(b) "Coroner" means the elected county official provided for in Sections 19-21-101 through 19-21-107.
(c) "County medical examiner investigator" means a nonphysician trained and appointed to investigate and certify deaths affecting the public interest.
(d) "County medical examiner" means a licensed physician appointed to investigate and certify deaths affecting the public interest.
(e) "Death affecting the public interest" means any death of a human being where the circumstances are sudden, unexpected, violent, suspicious or unattended.
(f) "Medical examiner" means the State Medical Examiner, county medical examiners and county medical examiner investigators collectively, unless otherwise specified.
(g) "Pronouncement of death" means the statement of opinion that life has ceased for an individual.
(h) "State medical examiner" means the board certified forensic pathologist/physician appointed by the Commissioner of Public Safety to investigate and certify deaths which affect the public interest.
SECTION 3. Section 41-61-55, Mississippi Code of 1972, is brought forward as follows:
41-61-55. There is hereby created the position of State Medical Examiner, to be established as herein provided under the appointment by and supervision of the Commissioner of Public Safety.
Each applicant for the position of State Medical Examiner shall, as a minimum, be a physician who is eligible for a license to practice medicine in Mississippi and be certified in forensic pathology by the American Board of Pathology.
The State Medical Examiner may be removed by the commissioner only for inefficiency or other good cause, after written notice and a hearing complying with due process of law.
SECTION 4. The amendments to Section 41-61-57 in Section 1 of this act shall be applicable to any person who is holding the position of county medical examiner on July 1, 2010. If any such person does not meet the qualifications required for county medical examiner by the amendments to Section 41-61-57 in Section 1 of this act on July 1, 2010, that person shall not be authorized to hold the position of county medical examiner after July 1, 2010.
SECTION 5. The Attorney General shall review the forensic evidence in all capital cases prosecuted since 1980 to determine if such forensic evidence is accurate and to determine whether the verdict in any of the cases was adversely affected by the use of such evidence. If the Attorney General makes a determination that a case was adversely affected by the use of tainted forensic evidence, then he shall petition the court for appropriate relief.
SECTION 6. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2010.