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DA not wild about sheriffs inquest plan for coroner
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San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore has implemented a new policy that will provide an additional layer of oversight when it comes to determining the manner of death in cases that come through his office.
But not everybody in San Joaquin County is on board with the coroner’s inquest policy that was adopted by the Sheriff’s Office.
In a statement this week to local media, the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office stopped short of saying that it was not in favor of the proposal, but instead outlined how after detailed research they’re in favor of a policy that completely separates the duties of the coroner from the oversight of the sheriff’s office.
“The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office is familiar with the coroner’s inquest in general and its use in Contra Costa County in particular,” the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office headed by Tori Verber Salazar said in a statement to the Lodi News-Sentinel. “The District Attorney’s Office has, in the past few months, conducted its own research into alternatives to the traditional sheriff-coroner model. The Office has taken steps to learn more about evidence-based best practices employed by counties in the region including a site-visit to Santa Clara County, where the medical examiner operates independently of the sheriff.”
Moore, who came under fire after the county’s two permanent medical examiners resigned citing heavy-handed attempts by his office to pressure them into changing the manner of death in cases involving law enforcement to something other than what they have originally submitted, originally stood by the position that it was his elected duty as the Sheriff-Corner of San Joaquin County to determine the manner of death in all cases that come through his office.
The announcement last week that the department would adopt the new inquest policy – that would allow a hearing officer or a jury to determine the manner of death in sensitive cases while the medical examiner determined the cause of death – was a departure from the original stance, but fell short of public calls for the two offices to which he was elected to be separated for the sake of transparency.
“After careful deliberation, the District Attorney’s office announced in December of 2017 that we endorse separating the coroner’s office from the duties of the sheriff’s department and creating an independent office of the Medical Examiner,” the statement read.  “This remains our position.”
The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors has yet to formally decide the way in which they will approach the issue, and are expected to consider multiple options as a formal county policy when they meet next month.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.