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Dead Center

May 22nd, 2011

The Times-Picayune ran an interesting, depressing piece on the New Orleans coroner’s office today. It details the inadequate staffing, substandard facilities, and general malaise that make up the smelly place we send bodies for examination.

Our coroner, Frank Minyard, has run the place since 1974, and has apparently never felt the need to speak up about his office’s problems. You would think that he, of all people, might advocate for, oh, I don’t know, at least decent ventilation. But the good doctor hasn’t bothered. His cryptic quote on his apathetic approach to getting what his staff needs: “It’s a dead horse,” he said. “I have animals. I love animals. You can’t beat a dead horse.”

When a coroner speaks about beating the dead, you tend to listen. After all, he is in charge of figuring out exactly when and how someone died; that presumably includes determining whether the deceased was beaten to death. The article makes clear that Dr. Minyard’s office may have some problems with doing just that, given the huge workload and antiquated rooms in which this mission is carried out.

It must give murderers a bit of hope to realize that their crimes may go undiscovered. Of course, what with the NOPD’s investigative record and recent scandals, that hope doesn’t stop with the examination of a corpse. But it is the equivalent of giving our many felons a nice head start.

Since Dr. Minyard isn’t interested in updating and improving his facilities, maybe someone else can take on the job. Thirty-seven years of overseeing a mess is enough.

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