New bill would overhaul Delaware medical examiner’s office

 (photo courtesy of DHSS)

(photo courtesy of DHSS)

A new bill that would abolish the chief medical examiner’s office is being reviewed by Delaware lawmakers.

Senate Bill 241 would dissolve the chief medical examiner’s office and create the Division of Forensic Science. A director would oversee the division, which would be housed under the Department of Safety and Homeland Security rather than the Department of Health and Social Services.

The division would be responsible for overseeing the chief medical examiner’s office and would be responsible for working with the courts and law enforcement, participating on the Criminal Justice Council, providing fatal incident reviews to the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council and investigating deaths.

Additionally, an eight member accountability commission would be developed to provide oversight.

“Forensic science is an evolving science that continuously is enhanced and the majority of the work that is done now in the office of the chief medical examiner is building on the basis of enhanced forensic sciences,” explained DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf.

Landgraf said the overhaul wouldn’t require any additional funding because they would be transferring one department to another.

Some committee members raised concerns that the division is too close to law enforcement and that it could create a conflict of interest.

DSHS Secretary Lewis Schiliro explained that the Division of Forensic Science is more aligned with what his department already does. “I don’t see how transferring one dept to another dept is in any way changing the integrity of the people,” Schiliaro said.

The legislation comes as the state continues a multi-agency investigation of evidence tampering within the chief medical examiner’s office.

Two employees of the Controlled Substance Lab were arrested last month in connection to evidence tampering and Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Richard Callery is currently suspended with pay.

The bill cleared the Senate Health and Social Services committee Wednesday and now heads to the Senate floor.

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