GOLDEN TRIANGLE, Miss. (WCBI)- Coroners in the Magnolia State are facing problems when it comes to getting timely autopsies after sending a body to the state crime lab.
“The problem I have is that I’ve been down there before at nine and ten in the morning and nothing is being done,” said Carolyn Green, Lee County Coroner. “There’s not a pathologist in there cutting and doing autopsies.”
Whenever Green sends a body to Pearl for an autopsy, more often than not, she finds herself playing the waiting game when it comes to receiving the results.
“I’ve got a least 38 outstanding, some of which belong to the pathologist that no longer even works in this state, that works in the state of Maine,” said Green. “Twelve of those at least are homicides that we are waiting on the final autopsy results to prosecute.”
The state’s only crime lab has two pathologists performing the autopsies, and Green blames much of the delay on the staff shortage.
“It’s difficult for two pathologists to handle the caseload that Mississippi has,” Green explained. “It has an unusually high caseload for autopsies. Coroners around the state have tried to cut that back as much as possible by doing only necessary autopsies, not sending down cases that are just natural deaths that we just simply don’t know the cause of death.”
Whenever an autopsy report is delayed, Green said it not only impacts coroners, but also court cases and funeral homes.
“Many district attorneys in the state of Mississippi won’t even go to grand jury without that final autopsy report, so that delays justice for the family, the victims, sometimes for a year or two years or longer,” the coroner said.
“Some of the families, they’re depending on that life insurance money, or some type of closure to know how the person died, or they’re depending on that money to be able to pay their bills,” said Caleb Pounders, president of Lowndes Funeral Home and Crematory.
Pounders said he’s seen the effects of delayed autopsy reports.
Right now he has a body that’s been backed up for the past five months awaiting results.
Pounders said the long wait can also have a big impact on family members.
“They may be trying to file for life insurance, or take care of business like selling cars, or handle estate, and without a final autopsy result, final death certificate, they’re not able to do that,” said Pounders.
The state crime lab can hold up to 19 bodies, and the staff typically performs anywhere from 10 to 20 autopsies a day.