The office of Coroner dates back to the Norman Conquest. The coroner’s responsibility is to make inquiries into and report on the death of civilians in their jurisdiction. This includes:
- Completing a death cerfiticate, stating cause of death, for anyone who dies that was not under a doctor’s care in the twenty four hours preceding death.
- Verifying the identity of all dead bodies.
- Determining the cause of death in all instances where the deceased was imprisioned in a state, county, or city jail or in police custody.
- Determining the deceased’s next of kin and assuring their estate is disposed of in an appropriate manner.
- Insuring that all bodies in his jurisdiction are disposed of legally.
- Holding an inquest whenever the cause of death cannot be determined or is suspicious.
There is no legal qualification to becoming a coroner. In many rural counties, the sheriff is also coroner. In others, the coroner is a trusted member of the community such as an undertaker, lawyer, or even saloonkeeper. However, with the increased study of forensic anatomy and pathology, it is becoming fashionable to nominate physicians to the post.