New autopsy law will help police, families

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   A bill passed by the Tennessee State Legislature in April of this year and recently signed into law by Gov. Phil Bredesen will help police and families by setting a timeframe for when autopsy reports must be completed by the medical examiner.
   "I am tremendously pleased with it," said Carter County Sheriff John Henson. "It will tremendously help us and help all law enforcement as well."
   The new law, which will go into effect July 1 of this year, sets out two timeframes which autopsy reports must be completed in, depending on the type of case.
   "In any case in which homicide is suspected, the autopsy report must be completed and submitted within 60 days following the submission of the body for examination and, in all other cases, the autopsy report must be completed within 90 days following the submission of the body for examination," states the new law. "If an autopsy report is not timely completed and submitted, then the person responsible for writing the report shall provide written explanation of the delay and shall send copies of such explanation to the decedent's next-of-kin and to the person requesting the autopsy."
   Bredesen expressed at the time he signed the bill into law his approval and support of the principles behind the law. "Timely reporting of autopsy results is always important," he said. "But in cases involving crimes, it is especially critical both for the families and for law enforcement."
   Henson stated that he feels the law will help his department, which has often had to deal with long waits for autopsy results and reports. "It will help us 100 percent because the quicker we can get the results the quicker we can solve the case and make an arrest," he said. "I know that all of the people who do autopsies are loaded down and don't have enough help but maybe this will get the ball rolling to get them some help."