William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

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.

Wednesday, 4, June, 2008

Your Degree Expired. No, Really, It Did!

Filed under: Medicine,Teaching — williamthecoroner @ 12:19
Tags: ,

Evidently, this has been floating around the educationalsphere:

From: Redacted
To: Mark
Subject: Your academic qualification expired
Date: Born Yesterday

Bacheelor, Masteer/MBA, and Doctoraate diplomas available in the field of your choice that’s right, you can even become a Doctor and receive all the benefits that comes with it!

Our Diplomas/Certificates are recognised in most countries

No required examination, tests, classes, books, or interviews.

** No one is turned down
** Confidentiality assured


For US: 1-801-XXX-XXXX
Outside US: +1-XXX-XXX-XXXX

“Just leave your NAME &; PHONE NO. (with CountryCode)” in the voicemail

our staff will get back to you in next few days

I wasn’t aware that my academic qualification COULD expire. Oh NO! I can only read at the fourth-grade level! And Bacheelor, Masteer, Doctoraate? Are they Dutch? I can think anyone who had a Masteer’s degree on their wall might be IN Dutch, but that’s another matter, excuse me, maateer, indeed.

And what are all the benefits of becoming a Doctor? Damn few, as far as I can tell. You can wear jammies at work, that’s pretty much it. Well, if you want to be a poseur, there’s plenty you can do. And, oh yeah, I can think of several sleazy things, “Trust me, I’m a Doctor,” but whenever I say that the woman I’m speaking to tends to break out laughing, and I really AM a doctor. I think that anyone who wasn’t a doctor attempting that would end up in the Greybar Hotel.

Saturday, 31, May, 2008

The Arms Race Continues

Filed under: Forensics — williamthecoroner @ 14:56

Not the military arms race, a race to avoid speed traps.  Hey, I’ve got an idea.  Don’t be a jerk, and keep it within five miles of the posted limit.  As a forensic pathologist, let me assure you that one many folks who become my patients are 1. speeding and 2. drunk.  And it’s not just DWI.  I’ve had BWI (boating while intoxicated) SWI (Swimming while intoxicated) BWI (Biking while intoxicated) and WWI, (Walking While Intoxicated).  The common thread is the WHILE INTOXICATED.  Alcohol leads to poor judgement. 

The most dramatic example of this is the fellow who lost his lisence for DWI, so he was coming home from the bar WWI, and he thought it was a good idea to stop and answer the call of nature in the middle of the highway.  The other drunk guy who klobbered him with the Caddy was just the icing on the cake, but he wouldn’t have been hit if he had gone before he left the bar.  So, when your father told you to hit the head before starting on the trip, he was wiser than you gave him credit for, wasn’t he?

Sunday, 20, April, 2008

Only in 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — williamthecoroner @ 10:28

Can the white, war hero (with a wealthy wife) and a wealthy, white, professional, woman with an ivy-league education be calling the black guy elitist.

Of course, the black guy went to Harvard, after all. I think all three of these people flunk the “just folks” test.

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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