Banner for The Criminal Justice Systems: A Guide for Law Enforcement Officers and Expert Witnesses in Impaired Driving Cases

THE SCIENTIFIC EXPERTS: 
Toxicologists, Crash Reconstructionists,
Optometrists, and Other Medical Personnel

MEDICAL EXAMINER/FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST

When a crash results in the death of a victim, the medical examiner’s testimony will be crucial in the case against the defendant. It is imperative to discuss your findings with the prosecutor at the earliest possible time. The prosecutor will need to know the cause and manner of death—was it directly or indirectly the result of the crash? If criminal charges are lodged, you can expect to testify at both a preliminary stage (grand jury or preliminary hearing) as well as at trial. The prosecutor will ask you questions regarding the autopsy conducted on the victim of a crime and the cause and manner of death. Questions will address:

  • Employment
  • Official title
  • Medical doctor licensed to practice in your State (and requirements)
  • Educational background—undergraduate and medical school degrees from accredited college/university
  • Residency
  • Fellowships
  • Board certifications—and requirements
  • Definition of pathology
  • Definition of autopsy
  • Why autopsy was conducted
  • Date/time/place when you conducted the autopsy of this victim
  • How victim was positively identified
  • Height and weight of victim at time of death
  • What did your examination reveal as far as injuries to victim?
    • Exterior exam – evidence of trauma or natural disease
      • Lacerations
      • Contusions
      • Protruding bones
      • Scars
    • Interior exam – same purpose
      • Fractured
      • Ruptured
      • Severed
  • Comparison of victim’s hospital medical examination records to medical examiner’s records
  • As a result of your examination, were you able to determine, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the cause of death of the victim (who may have to be referred to by name and not “victim” in some jurisdictions)?

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