Medical Examiners Office Speaks Out About Grand Jury Ruling
February 12, 2014 at 1:29 AM CST - Updated July 9 at 8:27 PM
ECTOR COUNTY - A county office is on the defense after another county agency has publicly asked for it to be gone. District Attorney Bobby Bland says allowing the medical examiner's office to exist endangers justice.
This is after the grand jury has called into question the department's credibility when examiner investigators opted against seeking an autopsy for Talisha Redic's infant son. The boy, along with his six surviving siblings, was found with cocaine in his system. However, without the results of the autopsy, officials lacked the necessary evidence needed that could possibly have locked Redic behind bars for much longer than what she'll receive now.
Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Anne Acreman said she's still reeling from the aftermath.
"I have never had a complaint from anybody in the public about their manner of dealing with people in this situation. I have never had a complaint from anyone in law enforcement and I have never had a complaint from the district attorney until about a week before the grand jury yesterday (Monday) when he advised me that I was gonna be subpoenaed," Dr. Acreman said.
Acreman says she's never had complaints against office investigators Sondra Woolf and Shirley Standefer. The pair had specifically been called out by the Grand Jury. Their findings say the women made a reckless decision in not seeking what they had ruled to be an autopsy needed for evidence in the Redic case.
"Well this wasn't a mix up, it was thought out very carefully," Acreman explained. "This was not an unexpected death. The neonatologist signed off on the death certificate as the attending physician with it's causes related to the lung problems related to severe prematurity."
Acreman also said she suspects, "there are many, many more cases where their work makes the prosecutor's job easier than interfere's with their job."
She told NewsWest 9 that the police seemed to be in support of the decision and had not gotten in touch with her to say otherwise.
"I've never met a shy or bashful police officer who wasn't aggressive about pursuing things that they thought needed to be pursued so they certainly could have gone over the head of the investigator and contacted me," she said.
But District Attorney Bobby Bland said there's no question. Officers wanted the autopsy. Without it, Redic would be getting off easy. If the autopsy indicated the child's death had resulted from drugs, Redic could have faced a maximum sentence of life in prison. Now, she's only at risk of getting two years behind bars.
So now the grand jury is asking county commissioners to clean up the mess. For the District Attorney, that means clearing out the agency.
"It serves no purpose as far as I'm concerned, it's a waste of money and now it's also affects justice- negatively, and when that happens, it's time to get rid of it," he said.
Bland explained how other counties, without the department, rely on Department of the Peace to perform autopsy duties.
"This county used that system for many many years, or at some point in time way before I became involved in this office, and it was deemed that that wasn't working," Acreman said.
Bland tells NewsWest 9 he had met with the court three times in the past year about his complaints with the Medical Examiner's Office.
"During executive session, the information that was relayed to us. It wasn't enough information to really take any action on," Ector County Commissioner, Freddie Gardner, said.
Still, the Medical Examiner's office is re-evaluating some things.
"Well I think given the situation and the firestorm this has produced, of course, we would do things a little bit differently," Acreman said.
The Commissioner's Court will hold a special meeting on Tuesday to come to a decision. They said both departments are welcome to help with the process.