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Expert Witness Testimony in Death Cases Jeopardized in LA County with recent departure of County Coroner

May 4, 2016

Citing lack of personnel and resources, as well as a backlog in cases, Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner Dr. Mark Fajardo suddenly announced his resignation from the LA County Coroner’s office in March 2015.  Over 8,500 autopsies are performed in LA County each year.  Dr. Fajardo’s departure also puts LA County’s accreditation with the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) at risk.  Accreditation with NAME requires that Medical Examiners perform at least 250 autopsies per year and 90% of cases must be cleared within 90 days.   While not required in the U.S., accreditation becomes crucial when the Medical Examiner appears in court on homicide or suspicious death cases.

According to Dr. David Fowler (NAME), L.A. County is not the only jurisdiction to face these challenges in their ME offices.  Other counties across the United States report similar shortfalls in trained Medical Examiners coming out fellowship programs.  Currently, enough Medical Examiners graduate to replace those leaving the profession for retirement, indicating that this shortfall is not likely to disappear anytime soon.  A substantial deficit in accredited Medical Examiners, has complex and dire implications in the courtroom, leaving room for unnecessary challenges.

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