In the United States of America, there are three systems of medicolegal death investigation including the Coroner system, Justice of the Peace system and Medical Examiner system. Some states, such as Texas, have a hybrid system that includes both a coroner or the Justice of the Peace and Medical Examiner systems.
Any system that deals with medicolegal death investigation, must apply the rule that -- as far as possible -- eyewitness accounts must be verified by evidentiary investigation in order to establish the truth. Evidentiary investigation necessitates creating a systems-based approach that allows evidence to be analyzed scientifically. The system should be free of external influences and must be empowered to conduct investigations independent of law enforcement agencies or other parties. The application of a systems-based approach is influenced by laws, societal norms and, most of all, available resources. Such a system must include a central facility with a secure place to preserve and examine human remains, and forensic laboratories to verify and reach a scientific conclusion worthy of admittance in a court of law.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's District is an example of such a system. Serving four counties (Tarrant, Parker, Denton and Johnson) in the state of Texas, with a combined population exceeding 2 million, it is governed and legislated by Section 49.25 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's District attempts to identify and explain both the cause and manner of death in cases where the death has occurred unattended or unexplained, or where the death is due to unnatural causes.
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