Monday, December 23, 2013

Probably undetermined

Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard has decided to retire after 40 years.
Minyard's departure leaves three people vying for his seat: Dr. Dwight McKenna, a surgeon and former school board member; Vincent Culotta Jr., an obstetrician and gynecologist; and Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, who already works in the coroner's office as Minyard's second in command.

McKenna, who has twice before sought to unseat Minyard, welcomed the news of his rival's departure. He criticized Minyard for not determining a cause of death in many high-profile cases.

"I think he's abused the office," McKenna said. "His diagnoses have been, to say the least, suspect. He's actually protected the guilty and disadvantaged the poor."

In a previous election, McKenna also famously criticized Minyard for... selling organs to mad scientists.. or something.

The fact that Rouse (Igor in the above video) got into the race should have tipped us off that something like this might be in the works.  Minyard likely qualified in order to keep the field relatively clear for Rouse who Minyard has now endorsed.
Minyard said he plans to endorse Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, one of the three candidates who qualified to run against him. Rouse, a forensic psychiatrist, is Minyard’s deputy coroner and had been touted by Minyard in the past as a solid choice to succeed him.

“He’s a good man with a good moral fiber,” Minyard said. “I think he’d be perfect for the position.”

The other two candidates in the race are Dr. Dwight McKenna, who has run against Minyard unsuccessfully in several previous elections, and political newcomer Dr. Vincent Culotta.

"I still love the job, but the position needs young blood, somebody who's computer literate," Minyard told Eyewitness Investigator Mike Perlstein. "I feel like it would be selfish for me to continue."
Having a "computer literate" coroner does sound pretty important. It equips the city to investigate the future crime of roboticide once the revolution inevitably comes.  In the meantime, though, it might suffice just to have someone who can at least determine the difference between a homicide and a whoopsie boo boo.

Here's one of the episodes (there have been more than one) of PBS' Frontline featuring Minyard and his history of downgrading murders to "accidental" or "undetermined" deaths in high profile cases.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

Here's a transcript of the interview.  In this passage Minyard is asked about the case of Adolph Archie.

You know there's been a long history where you've been accused of being biased on the side of the law enforcement --

Correct. Yes.

-- to the point that you had a friend who was an officer who ... was involved in one of the more famous incidents, ... Adolph Archie [who died in police custody after killing an officer].

Adolph Archie. ... In that case, my position was that Adolph Archie died from an allergic reaction to iodine that he was given on the X-ray table right before they were going to do a procedure. And written all over his medical chart from Angola [Louisiana State Penitentiary] and from Charity Hospital has "allergic to iodine." He got the iodine IV; he sat up, went back and hit the back of his head, and he died.

That created quite a furor. It brought [journalists] Hugh Downs and Mike Wallace. We brought in three world-renowned forensic pathologists to testify to our grand jury. We had a grand jury hearing. And the three of them all came up with different answers. One of them backed me -- allergic reaction.
... And of course the grand jury came back no true bill, [a grand jury's finding that there is no probable cause for determining that a crime was committed]. And to this day, there is no cause of death. ...

[What was the classification on the death certificate?]

Yeah. On the death certificate, I'm not sure. I haven't thought about that in a long time. But I know there is no cause of death. See, a death certificate you have one, two, three causes. And as far as a classification, I don't know what we classified it as. We probably --


Probably undetermined.

Minyard's most recently famous euphemism is his classification of the death of Henry Glover, shot and then burned in a car by police after Katrina.
Riled up protesters struggled with the coroner's staff Monday as they overflowed into the lobby of the office.

They continued chanting in the lobby as Glover's family and the NAACP met with Minyard about the case.

“I did not see the remains of Henry Glover. But I have been told it was nothing but burned-out bones,” Minyard said.

Glover's death was originally ruled "accidental” because his body had been burned in a fire.

In 2009, Minyard reclassified it as "undetermined." Glover's family wants it classified as a homicide.
The  ongoing rancor over the Glover case (occasioning multiple demonstrations at the coroner's office in the past week) may be what has actually driven Minyard from office.  Even so, he's classifying the move as a simple retirement.

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