William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Friday, 19, December, 2008


Filed under: Blogania,Social Commentary,Social Ostracism — williamthecoroner @ 14:47

When I look at my stats for this blog, two or three searches always appear.  They are, in this order:

  1. Do Cats Eat Dead People,
  2. Eliot Ness,
  3. USS Constitution, and
  4. Arms and Armor of Imperial Austria–the picture of the armoured horse.

Why is that?  Why have I become the expert in feline anthropophagy?  This is what I’m attracting to my blog?  Sheesh.

Wednesday, 23, July, 2008

Consequences And How You Present Yourself

Filed under: Forensics,Social Commentary,Social Ostracism — williamthecoroner @ 23:12

If you drink, you should not drive. I have enough work, thank you very much. If you drink, don’t get behind the wheel. If you do drink, get behind the wheel, kill someone, it’s probably not a good idea to dress up in a prison jumpsuit with the label “jailbird” and be photographed drinking at a party. It’s a really bad idea to put them up on your Facebook page. Again, I learned early on in my medical career that I just wasn’t a medical student, I’d become the avatar for medicine. I was an example of how good (or bad) doctors were in society by how I carried myself. This wasn’t right, smart, nor was it fair. But it was how it is. I’m very careful of what I blog. I’m careful of how I drive. I’m not a punk kid anymore. Neither was the idiot with the Facebook page.

Living in a large city brings with it a degree of anonymity, and therefore a lack of responsibility. But people do know who you are, and Google is forever.

Thursday, 26, June, 2008

Speaker for the Dead

Filed under: Forensics,Social Ostracism — williamthecoroner @ 20:55

As a forensic pathologist, I have had to testify fairly regularly.  Greg Davis of the Kentucky State Medical Examiner’s office has a wonderful rule, which I keep to “You [the pathologist] doesn’t have a dog in this fight.”  (As an aside, he also has some podcasts, which can be accessed HERE).  The forensic pathologist is (usually) a county or a state employee. The forensic pathologist is usually called by the prosecution, but he doesn’t work FOR the prosecution.  You do develop a working relationship with the prosecutors, because you work with them time and again, but that it happens with any attorney you work with over time.  I have been used as an expert by one defense attorney for four or five times now.  It’s a good thing, he is used to my style, I’m used to his, and he knows he’ll get a good report in reasonable time.

The defense attorney is important.  You never realize how many people work for the prosecutor’s side until you look.  The state has a much bigger budget than most people, and many more resources.  A zealous defense is important in this situation.  I’ve never minded testimony too much.  It’s on the record, the prosecutor is there to object if things get out of hand, and most judges I’ve met don’t have a lot of patience for shenanigans.  Finally, I’ve been yelled at (and graded) by humourless surgical attendings.  Attorneys are restricted to parliamentary language, usually.  They’re also not grading your performance.

A zealous defense, however, does not mean harming the victim again.  That’s what I disliked about Massachusetts State Representative James Fagan’s statement about what a defense attorney would have to do to a [six-year-old] child witness if the bill he was arguing against passed.  The key graf is: I’m gonna rip them apart. I’m going to make sure that the rest of their life is ruined, that when they’re 8 years old, they throw up; when they’re 12 years old, they won’t sleep; when they’re 19 years old, they’ll have nightmares and they’ll never have a relationship with anybody.”and the full story is here

You gotta make the prosecution prove their case.  You gotta make sure they’ve got the right person.  To threaten to harm children again to do that (to save the perpetrator from draconian punishments, that was Mr. Fagan’s point) does not sit well with me.  I will also point out that the good, competent defense attorneys don’t DO these things.  Spend enough time around lawyers, particularly watching them in action, you can tell who you’d call if you needed one and who is a legend in their own mind.  The bright ones, the ethical ones don’t revictimize the victims.  It’s a good way to turn off the jury.

It is sad how the murder victims, my patients, don’t really have anyone to speak for them as time goes on.  There is no tradition of a Speaker for the Dead.  Lester Adelson of the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office once referred to a forensic pathologist as the “family physician for the bereaved”.  That’s a worthy goal, I think.

By the by, Mr. Fagan’s contact information is here.  He also chairs the Massachusetts House Ethics Committee.  Both the LawDog and the Bayou Renaissanceman brought this to my attention.

Wednesday, 11, June, 2008

I Know It’s Not News

Filed under: Social Ostracism — williamthecoroner @ 20:02

But articles like this one make me dispair.  They also give me gas.  Though this does offer me a chance to use the word borborygmi in a post and show off my medical vocabulary.  It’s one of my favourite medical words.

Be that as it may, I’m too old for this nonsense.  I like the old Zen precept “Eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are tired.”  Life is too short to worry about what other folks think about my food choices.  Especially if this is the way they seek insight into my character.  Judging someone by their actions is appropriate.  Past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour.  This is just shallow nonsense by someone who also probably thinks Candace Bushnell is a deep thinker.

Monday, 2, June, 2008


Filed under: Social Ostracism — williamthecoroner @ 11:47

The New York Times has an article on how the economic downturn is devastating all levels of society. They’re concentrating on the upper crust. People are worried that their spouses might leave them because “Their worth has declined from 20 million to eight million” Stress is rampant, people have to sell their collections of Patek Phillipe watches! Quel horreur!

Key graph: THEIR spouses could leave them when they discover that their net worth has collapsed to eight figures from nine. Friends and business associates could avoid them as they pass their lunchtime tables at Barney’s or the Four Seasons. And these snubs could trickle down to their children.

So, a bunch of shallow, entitled, spendthrifts can’t keep up with their peers and are feeling the emptiness of their lives without material things. So, what’s the down side?

Thursday, 15, May, 2008

Pimp My Haiku

Filed under: Social Ostracism — williamthecoroner @ 08:43

Sparrow is having her haiku contest up at her site. This week’s topic is Heroes:

Mine was:

Always did the job
Family, house, work, kept together
Never made a fuss.

I don’t know. Hero is used too cheaply, in my opinion. I really don’t think sporting prowess is legitimately called heroism, really. But life is tough, and I appreciate the people who suit up, mount up, and just suck it up and do the job; even if the job is tedious and dangerous. A lot of times, people do things they’d rather not do, just to keep food on the table and support a family.

Then, of course, there are those that don’t. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve seen come out of the woodwork when someone dies and want holds of specimens for paternity testing, to pick up some SSI payments. Which is more, cynically, than the person ever gave his children when he was alive.

Saturday, 26, April, 2008

What Are You Smoking?

Filed under: Social Ostracism — williamthecoroner @ 16:29

After a week that’s been mildly soul-searing, involving lawyers, distressed divorcing people, whiny undergraduates, and annoying co-workers, what I really needed to do was go to the range and shoot something.  I didn’t, but I did take the flower tour in Lake View Cemetery, and today was the day all the tulips and the flowering trees came out.

We won’t talk about the pollen, but Spring in Cleveland does have some good points, and the flowers are one of them.  Last year, ’round Easter, there were three feet of snow dumped in an evening.  I’ll deal with the pollen, thank you.

But, listening to the radio, it seems that surrealism wasn’t confined to the shores of Lake Erie this week.  There was the guy in Illinois who spoke at the Adolph Hitler birthday party.  Yes, that Adolph Hitler.  He claimed not know he was talking to Nazis, because they call themselves “National Socialists”.  He’d forgotten that NAZI is the acronym for National Socialists in German, but you’d think the swastika armbands and the brownshirts would have given the show away.

Then, of course, the legislators in the State of Florida are concerned with a very pressing problem–fake bull testicles on truck trailer hitches.  Evidently there are lots of those in Florida who need more compensation than an F350 can give them, and gas prices are increasing.

I’m going to go get a pizza and sit by the lake and eat it.

Tuesday, 15, April, 2008

In Which I Am Disturbed

Filed under: Social Ostracism — williamthecoroner @ 20:49

But you knew that already.

As a forensic pathologist, I’m more familiar with death than the average person. Indeed, as Max Maven once pointed out–the meaning of life is that it stops. Death isn’t wrong, it isn’t bad, it just is. However much we wish to ignore it, or fight the fact with plastic surgery or red sports cars, the point is we all will be dead eventually.

However, there is no need to celebrate death, nor hasten it. Peaceful coexistence is the best we can hope for, and therefore these “Souviners of the End of the Century” these “Buildings of Disaster” from BOYM designers, really creep me out.

OK, so a portion of the proceeds does go to a September 11th fund. That doesn’t make up for the smirking, self-aggrandizing, nihlilism that goes into the concept. I lost people I knew on September 11, 2001. I know the forensic folks who had to work on both the twin towers and the Pentagon. I don’t feel this honours their memory.

This looks like a tacky, cynical way to make a buck. I don’t know much about art, but I know this is what I don’t like.

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