2010 Wyoming Statutes
Title 7 - Criminal Procedure
Chapter 4 - County Coroners

CHAPTER 4 - COUNTY CORONERS

 

ARTICLE 1 - IN GENERAL

 

7-4-101. Election; oath; bond.

 

A coroner shall be elected in each county for a term of four (4) years. He shall take the oath prescribed by the constitution of the state and give bond to the state of Wyoming, in the penal sum of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), with sufficient sureties, to be approved by the board of county commissioners, conditioned that he will faithfully perform all duties required by law.

 

7-4-102. Deputy coroners.

 

The county coroner may appoint deputy coroners, who shall serve in the absence or inability of the coroner and who shall receive compensation as the board of county commissioners determines by resolution.

 

7-4-103. Certification requirements; penalty; expenses.

 

(a) After January 5, 1987, no person shall continue in office as county coroner or deputy coroner unless he has been certified under W.S. 9-1-634 as having completed:

 

(i) Not later than one (1) year after assuming office, a basic coroner course;

 

(ii) Continuing education requirements promulgated by the board of coroner standards pursuant to W.S. 7-4-211(c)(iii).

 

(b) Any person who knowingly fails to comply with subsection (a) of this section and continues in office is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of twenty-five dollars ($25.00) for each day of noncompliance.

 

(c) Each coroner or deputy coroner attending approved classes to receive the certification required by subsection (a) of this section shall receive his present salary or per diem in the same manner and amount as state employees, whichever is greater, and shall be reimbursed for his actual travel and other necessary expenses reasonably incurred in obtaining the required training. The expenses shall be paid by the county in which the coroner or deputy coroner is serving.

 

(d) After July 1, 2001, no person shall serve as deputy coroner or as an employee of a county coroner who does not meet the employment standards adopted by the board of coroner standards pursuant to W.S. 7-4-211(c)(v).

 

7-4-104. Definitions.

 

(a) As used in this chapter:

 

(i) "Coroner's case" means a case involving a death which was not anticipated and which may involve any of the following conditions:

 

(A) Violent or criminal action;

 

(B) Apparent suicide;

 

(C) Accident;

 

(D) Apparent drug or chemical overdose or toxicity;

 

(E) The deceased was unattended by a physician or other licensed health care provider;

 

(F) Apparent child abuse causes;

 

(G) The deceased was a prisoner, trustee, inmate or patient of any county or state corrections facility or state hospital, whether or not the death is unanticipated;

 

(H) If the cause is unknown or cannot be certified by a physician;

 

(J) A public health hazard is presented; or

 

(K) The identity of the victim is unknown or the body is unclaimed.

 

(ii) "Coroner's office" means all personnel appointed and elected to the office of coroner, including the county coroner, deputies and assistants;

 

(iii) "County coroner" means the elected or appointed officer of the county whose task is to investigate the cause of death in a coroner's case;

 

(iv) "Anticipated death" means the death of an individual who had been diagnosed by a physician acting within the scope of his license as being afflicted with an illness or disease reasonably likely to result in death, and there is no cause to believe the death occurred for any reasons other than those associated with the illness or disease;

 

(v) "Unattended" means the deceased had not been under the care of a physician or other health care provider acting within the scope of his license within sixty (60) days immediately prior to the date of death.

 

ARTICLE 2 - INQUESTS

 

7-4-201. Reports of death; investigation; summoning of jurors; fees and costs; inspection of medical records.

 

 

(a) When any person is found dead and the death appears to have occurred under circumstances indicating the death is a coroner's case, the person who discovers the death shall report it immediately to law enforcement authorities who shall in turn notify the coroner. A person who knowingly violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, a fine of not more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00), or both.

 

(b) When the coroner is notified that the dead body of any person has been found within the limits of the county or that the death resulted from injury sustained within the county and he suspects that the death is a coroner's case, he shall conduct an investigation which may include:

 

(i) An examination of the body and an investigation into the medical history of the case;

 

(ii) The appointment of a qualified physician to assist in determining the cause of death;

 

(iii) An autopsy if the physician appointed to assist the coroner under this subsection determines an autopsy is necessary;

 

(iv) An inquest; or

 

(v) Any other reasonable procedure which may be necessary to determine the cause of death.

 

(c) If the coroner determines to hold an inquest he shall summon three (3) citizens of the county to appear before him to act as jurors at the time and place named. The jurors shall receive the same fee paid jurors in district court as provided in W.S. 1-11-303 and per diem and travel expenses in the same manner as state employees. The coroner may furnish transportation for the jury and witnesses to and from the place of inquest and for the removal of the dead body.

 

(d) If a coroner determines the injuries which caused the person's death were received in a county other than that in which the body was found, he shall transfer authority for the investigation and inquest to the coroner for that county.

 

(e) The expense and costs of conducting the investigation or holding the inquest shall be paid by the county in which the injuries were received. The accounts of the claimants shall be attested by the coroner or acting coroner, and shall be presented in duplicate to the board of county commissioners of the proper county. If the board of county commissioners finds that the inquest was necessary and in accordance with law, and the accounts are correct and just, the accounts shall be paid in warrants properly drawn upon the order of the county commissioners.

 

(f) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the coroner may inspect medical and psychological data relating to the person whose death is being investigated if the coroner determines the information is relevant and necessary to the investigation.

 

7-4-202. Impaneling of bystanders as jurors; oath.

 

If any juror fails to appear, the coroner shall immediately summon the proper number from the bystanders and proceed to impanel them. He shall administer the following oath: "You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that you will diligently inquire and truly present if known or determinable, the time and date of death, and by what means and manner the death of (NAME OF DECEASED) was caused, according to your knowledge and the evidence given you, so help you God."

 

7-4-203. Issuance of subpoenas; witness fees; enforcement of attendance.

 

The coroner may issue subpoenas and compel the attendance of witnesses to testify at the inquest. Witnesses shall be allowed the same fees as in cases before a circuit court, and the coroner shall have the same authority to enforce the attendance of witnesses and to punish for contempt as provided by W.S. 1-21-901 through 1-21-909.

 

7-4-204. Oath of witness; recording of testimony; compensation of reporter.

 

An oath shall be administered to each witness as follows: "You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that the testimony which you shall give to this inquest concerning the death of the person about whom this inquest is being held, shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God." The coroner shall insure that all testimony in an inquest shall be recorded. The compensation of the court reporter or of the person transcribing the audio tape shall be as prescribed by the board of county commissioners. Unless specifically requested by the coroner or prosecuting attorney, audio tapes need not be transcribed.

 

7-4-205. Return of inquisition by jury.

 

After hearing testimony and making necessary inquiries, the jurors shall return to the coroner their signed inquisition stating the name of the person and when, how and by what means, if known, he came to his death.

 

7-4-206. Coroner's return to court.

 

The coroner shall return to the district court the inquisition, the written evidence and a list of witnesses providing material testimony.

 

7-4-207. Disposition of body and effects of deceased.

 

 

(a) When the coroner investigates the death of a person whose body is not claimed by a friend or relative within five (5) days of the date of discovery and whose death does not require further investigation, he shall cause the body to be decently buried. The expense of the burial shall be paid from any property found with the body. If no property is found, the expense of the burial shall be paid by the county in which the investigation occurs.

 

(b) The coroner shall within a reasonable time after completing the investigation, turn over to the appointed personal representative of the estate of the deceased or, if none, to the clerk of the district court of the county, all money or other property found upon the body of the deceased. Personal items valued at less than fifty dollars ($50.00) and items necessary for the convenience of the deceased's next of kin may be released to the deceased's next of kin.

 

7-4-208. Authority of sheriff to perform duties of coroner.

 

If there is no coroner, deputy coroner or in case of their absence, or inability to act, the county sheriff of the same county, the state health officer pursuant to W.S. 35-1-241, or the coroner of another county if there is a joint powers agreement pursuant to W.S. 16-1-102 through 16-1-108 between the counties authorizing the coroner to so act, is authorized to perform the duties of coroner in relation to dead bodies.

 

7-4-209. Postmortem examination; liability limitation.

 

 

(a) When an inquisition is being held, if the coroner or the jury shall deem it requisite, he may summon one (1) or more physicians or surgeons, to make an autopsy or postmortem examination.

 

(b) If it is necessary to obtain or preserve evidence of the cause of death, the district attorney may order that a qualified physician perform an autopsy or postmortem examination of the body of any person who appears to have died by unlawful means, by violence, or when the cause of death is unknown.

 

(c) No person is subject to civil liability solely because he requested or was involved in the performing of an autopsy that was ordered by a coroner or district attorney.

 

7-4-210. Fees and mileage; salary.

 

(a) The coroner or deputy coroner of each county within this state shall receive fees and mileage, if any, as set by the board of county commissioners.

 

(b) The board of county commissioners shall set the salary of the coroner and deputy coroner. A coroner or deputy coroner shall not be prohibited from receiving other fees for their services unrelated to their official duties as coroner or deputy coroner.

 

7-4-211. Board of coroner standards.

 

(a) There is created a board of coroner standards. The board shall consist of one (1) chairman and six (6) members appointed by and who shall serve at the pleasure of the governor as follows:

 

(i) One (1) shall be a physician with a specialty in pathology who is licensed to practice in this state;

 

(ii) Three (3) shall be duly elected coroners in this state;

 

(iii) One (1) shall be a funeral director in this state;

 

(iv) One (1) shall be a duly elected district attorney in this state;

 

(v) One (1) shall be a peace officer certified under W.S. 9-1-701 through 9-1-707.

 

(b) The members of the board shall be appointed to terms of four (4) years which are concurrent with the terms of the office of coroner. Board members not otherwise compensated for attending board meetings shall receive travel expenses and per diem in the same manner and amount as state employees, and any other reasonable expenses upon board approval. Board members not otherwise compensated shall have their expenses paid from the general fund by appropriation to the office of the attorney general.

 

(c) The board shall:

 

(i) Meet at least biannually and at the call of the chairman or of a majority of the membership;

 

(ii) Promulgate standards dealing with the investigation of coroner's cases;

 

(iii) Promulgate educational and training requirements for coroner basic and continuing education requirements and review those requirements annually;

 

(iv) Cooperate with the peace officer standards and training commission in developing basic and continuing education courses for coroners;

 

(v) Promulgate employment standards for deputy coroners and coroner employees. The standards may include the requirement that deputy coroners and coroner employees provide to the employing coroner fingerprints and other information necessary for a state and national criminal history record background check and release of information as provided in W.S. 7-19-106(k)(ii) and federal P.L. 92-544 and consent to the release of any criminal history information to the employing coroner.

 

(d) The peace officer standards and training commission shall cooperate with the board of coroner standards in establishing course requirements and continuing education requirements required by law.

 

(e) The board shall contact the district attorney for the county or the attorney general to initiate an action and may serve as complaining party in an action under W.S. 7-4-103(b) or 18-3-902 to remove any coroner who is not in compliance with W.S. 7-4-103.

 

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