Questions Arise Over County Medical Examiner's Office

Serious allegations have been made about how Wichita County runs the Medical Examiner's Office. If true, there could be serious legal ramifications.

David Fisher of Austin is a self-proclaimed document consultant who acts as an independent government watchdog. He believe Wichita County is operating the ME's office illegally.

Fisher said the practice of sending bodies out of county for medical examination, in counties with ME's offices, goes against state code. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 49.25, sec. 9 states: "If in the opinion of the medical examiner an autopsy is necessary...the autopsy shall be immediately performed by the medical examiner or a duly authorized deputy."

Fisher also claims an ME can't engage in private practice. Wichita County medical examiner Dr. Gary Ozier does. He practices out of the Clinics of North Texas in Wichita Falls. While state code states "the medical examiner shall devote so much of his time and energy as is necessary in the performance of...duties...," no part of the code explicitly states it is illegal. Officials from the Texas Medical Board said it is allowed.

Fisher also said Wichita County Sheriff's Office personnel are making decisions about removing bodies from crime scenes. State code separates the duties and responsibilities of medical examiners and law enforcement.

Sheriff's Office officials said they can't comment on the allegations because of an open inquiry into the matter by the District Attorney's Office. Tony Fidelie with the DA's office said Fisher lodged a complaint with the DA's office around seven to ten days ago. Fidelie said Thursday they have not uncovered anything yet, but wouldn't comment further because the matter is still open.  Thursday was also Fidelie's last day with the DA's office. He said the matter will be passed on to someone else within the office.

Multiple county officials declined comment on the matter. Calls to the Public Defender's Office and Dr. Oziers Office were either unanswered or not returned.

Fisher claims, if he's right, there could be serious legal consequences. If the ME's office is found to be operating illegally, Fisher said, the county should expect a slew of challenges to convictions for which medical evidence or ME testimony was involved.