Counties have coroner’s offices that investigate the causes of death in a wide variety of circumstances that are violent, suspicious or unusual. These range from suspected homicides and suicides to fatal accidents or deaths where there is no attending physician.
The coroner’s office, sometimes referred to as the medical examiner, prepares a report on each investigation it conducts, and that report is usually available to the public (although many coroner’s offices will charge a fee for a copy of the report).
The coroner’s report focuses on a medical examination or autopsy of the body at a morgue to determine the cause of death.
But investigators with the coroner’s office also frequently gather other information, such as interviewing family members, acquaintances of the deceased and other people, to help determine what caused the person’s death. Summaries of that information are also included in the reports.
Sample Coroner’s or Autopsy Reports:
- Michael Jackson – Smoking Gun website
- Elvis Presley – Smoking Gun website
- Anna Nicole Smith – Smoking Gun website
The coroner’s office also may fill in information on a person’s death certificate that summarizes the cause of death. Death certificates, which includes information on the decedent’s address, occupation and immediate family, will often be filed with the county recorder’s office.
Sample Death Certificates:
- John F. Kennedy Jr. – fatal plane crash – Smoking Gun website
About this Tutorial
This tutorial was originally written by Paul Grabowicz for students in his Computer Assisted Reporting class, and later modified for public use.
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