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Autopsy Backlog in Connecticut Delays Investigations
Aired July 3, 2003 - 20:45 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Dead men and women don't talk, but their corpses do, providing valuable clues in murder investigations. Tonight, in our continuing look at state in crisis, we turn to Connecticut, where budget cutbacks are slowing down the speed at which autopsies are completed.
Deborah Feyerick reports.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With murder, police say the first 24 hours are critical. The body is a crime scene, with its clues, its hints of motive and of the possible killer.
We've seen it on the CBS series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." The autopsies that can serve up so much information, the killer is quickly caught.
In real life in Connecticut, budget cutbacks taking effect now have taken an autopsy backlog. That's according to the state's chief examiner, Dr. H. Wayne Carver. He says he has had to cut one of six forensic pathologists. And they're no longer doing autopsies on Sundays or holidays.
DR. H. WAYNE CARVER: There's three ways to approach this: not do them at all, do them bad or do them late. The first two just simply weren't acceptable.
FEYERICK: Connecticut's medical examiner's office performs on average 30 autopsies a week. Carver says before the cuts, 98 were completed within a day. Now, in some cases, he says, it's taking two or three days. The governor's office responds, the medical examiner needs to manage resources better. Others say the delay is real and having an effect.
(on camera): A recent case of child abuse, what was the cause of delay in the autopsy?
LT. JOHN BRENNER, BRIDGEPORT POLICE DEPT.: The cause of delay would have been just scheduling problems.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Lieutenant John Brenner works investigations for the Bridgeport Police. He says a quick turnaround is important, especially with child abuse.
BRENNER: In a case like this with children, where there's no external trauma, it's hard to question the parent because you don't know if the parents a victim or suspect.
FEYERICK (on camera): We checked with several police departments in Connecticut. So far the autopsy delays have had no impact on any criminal investigations.
But for one family, the backlog was traumatic. They had to wait four days before their relative was released for burial.
(voice-over): Funeral director Bill Iovanni (ph) says any hold- up for a grieving family feels too long.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just, you know, makes people sit in their house thinking and wondering and it just -- it drags it on.
FEYERICK: Connecticut officials say the medical examiner's office will not be hit with any more cuts this year.
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