Coroner

The Coroner’s Office provides a broad and varied spectrum of technical and legal services to all of Lafayette Parish. It includes mental health, death, and sexual assault investigations and examinations. Other than approval of its budget through Lafayette Consolidated Government, the Coroner’s Office is an autonomous parish governing authority.  The findings of the Coroner’s Office can be admissible as court evidence. 

I.  Power

The Coroner is elected by the voters of Lafayette Parish to serve four years.  There is no limit to the number of terms to which the Coroner may be elected. The office was created by the Louisiana State Constitution within the Judicial Branch.  Qualifications require a licensed physician, unless none in the parish will accept the office.  A parish resident is required or a licensed physician who practices full-time at a principal medical office facility in the parish.

Some of the mandates for the work of the Coroner’s Office are:

  • Constitution of the State of Louisiana
  • Revised State Statutes
  • Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure
  • LSA Children’s Code
  • LSA Civil Code
  • Physician’s Handbook on Medical Certification of Death
  • Relevant case law and opinions of the Attorney General
  • Regulations of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The staff of the office of the Coroner includes:

  • Coroner
  • Chief Deputy Coroner
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Chief Medicolegal Death Investigator
  • Clerk 111
  • Contracted Deputy Coroners and Death Investigators as needed

The above positions are appointed by the Coroner.  They require specific professional qualifications.  The position of Coroner itself is a full-time position entailing responsibilities 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

When related, reciprocal investigative information regarding mental health issues is exchanged between the Lafayette Parish Coroner and other Louisiana parish coroners.   Cooperation is also given to the Office of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Hospitals in emergency/disaster situations.

II.  Services

     Death Investigation

  • Definition of death; notification of death under suspicious circumstances
  • Coroner access to records without medical release or subpoena
  • Investigation by Coroner and abolition of coroner’s jury and inquest
  • Conduction of autopsies
  • Admissibility in evidence of Coroner’s report
  • Notification of next of kin of death
  • Delivery of body; burial of paupers and unclaimed bodies
  • Reception and  distribution of anatomical gifts         
  • Mandatory identification of infected corpses
  • Child death investigation
  • An authorizing authority for request of cremation of bodies dead under certain circumstances
  • Coroner’s consent for removal of kidney or eye
  • Preparation, filing, and certification of death and of spontaneous fetal death (stillbirth)
    Mental Health Investigations and Examinations
  • Adults
  • Juveniles
  • Sexual assault investigations and examination of adults and juveniles contracted out to SANE  (sexual assault nurse examiner) through the Office of the Coroner
  • Case Law

III.  Money

A statistical estimate of death of 1% of the population annually provides a basis for budgeted costs.  The Coroner proposes the annual budget each fiscal year.  It is then adjusted and approved by the Lafayette City-Parish Council.  All operating monies and salaries are paid directly by Lafayette Consolidated Government from its funds, as well as parish reimbursement for specific fees per case.   Lafayette Parish residents are responsible through the Constitution of the State of Louisiana to pay for these expenses, through Lafayette Consolidated Government.   The Coroner’s expenditures are reported to Lafayette Consolidated Government and to the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court. 

When needed, unscheduled additional funds may be secured through the General Fund of Lafayette Parish-City Government. 

   Fees
  • Charged by the Coroner’s Office Include:
  • each investigation
  • viewing a body
  • attendance or testimony in court cases
  • papers issued in interdiction cases or in mental commitment or incompetency cases
  • physical or mental examination requested by district attorney, judge, sheriff, chief of police, or any responsible resident acting in good faith in an emergency
  • performance of an autopsy
Total Appropriations from Lafayette Consolidated Government for 2014-2015 budget:  $1,055,334 which included a one-time disbursement of $20,000 to replace cooler.


Sources
Documents:
Constitution of the State of Louisiana, Articles 5 and 6
Louisiana Revised Statutes 8, 9, 13, 15, 17, 24, 28, 33-34, 38-40, 42, 44-45, 47, 51-52
Budget Document, Lafayette Consolidated Government
Documentation provided by the Lafayette Parish Coroner’s Office

Interviews:
Keith Talamo, Chief Medicolegal Investigator Lafayette Parish Coroner’s Office
Carolyn Bouillion, Administrative Assistant, Lafayette Parish Coroner’s Office


Updated: July, 2015
 
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