Post Mortem: Death Investigation In America

Did you know a coroner doesn't need a medical degree to diagnose the cause of death? An NPR News investigation in partnership with ProPublica and PBS Frontline explores the nation's 2,300 coroner and medical examiner offices, and finds a troubled system that buries its mistakes.

Free, But Not Cleared: Ernie Lopez Comes Home()  

Ernie Lopez hugs his daughter, Nikki Lopez, for the first time since 2009. Ernie was released from prison on March 2 in Amarillo, Texas, after nine years, while he awaits a new trial.

March 5, 2012 After nine years in prison for sexual assault of a baby girl, Lopez has been reunited with his family in Texas. An investigation by NPR, Frontline and ProPublica showed that the baby had a disorder that mimicked the signs of physical abuse. And now, Lopez awaits a new trial.

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The Child Cases: Guilty Until Proved Innocent()  

Ernie Lopez is serving a 60-year prison sentence for a crime he, and medical experts, said he didn't commit.

June 28, 2011 NPR News Investigations, ProPublica and PBS Frontline analyzed nearly two dozen cases in which people have been accused of killing children based on flawed work by forensic pathologists. Some of the accused were later cleared, others like Ernie Lopez, remain in prison.

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Graphics: How Is Death Investigated In Your State?()  

Death Investigation State By State

February 1, 2011 Did you know a coroner doesn't have to be a doctor to determine the cause of death? Learn more about investigating death in the U.S.

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The Child Cases: Lessons From Canada()  

Tammy Marquardt, now 39, spent 14 years in prison for a crime she didn't commit.

June 30, 2011 Tammy Marquardt is one of at least a dozen people prosecuted for killing children in Ontario based on what later turned out to be tainted medical evidence. In just the past few years, courts have overturned several of those convictions, and more are under review.

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The Two-Way

Judge Tosses Conviction Of Texas Man Accused Of Sexually Assaulting Infant()  

Ernie Lopez is serving a 60-year prison sentence for a crime he, and medical experts, say he didn't commit.

January 26, 2012 A joint investigation by NPR, Frontline and ProPublica cast doubt on Ernie Lopez's conviction. It found that oftentimes medical examiners and coroners mishandle cases of infant and child deaths.

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Shots - Health News

New Theory On 'Shaken Baby Syndrome'()  

July 1, 2011 A new study suggests that babies can die by violent shaking alone, but not in the way doctors have thought. A series of autopsies suggests damage to the neck rather than the brain can be fatal.

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Rethinking Shaken Baby Syndrome()  

Norman Guthkelch, a pediatric neurosurgeon who is credited with discovering shaken baby syndrome, is now having second thoughts about how the diagnosis is used in court.

June 29, 2011 The dispute over the common child abuse diagnosis is a bitter civil war. And now, the pediatric neurosurgeon who is credited with first observing the syndrome is speaking out for the first time about his concerns over how it is used in child abuse cases.

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Live Chat: 'The Child Cases,' 1 p.m. Wednesday()  

June 28, 2011 Join reporters from NPR, PBS Frontline and ProPublica for a discussion on our joint investigation of more than two dozen flawed pediatric death cases, which sent innocent parents and caregivers to prison.

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Radio Pictures

Flawed Autopsies Send Two Innocent Men To Jail()  

Levon Brooks was wrongfully convicted of raping and murdering a 3-year-old girl in Noxubee County, Miss., in 1990. After spending 18 years in prison, he was released from jail in 2008 with the help of DNA evidence and the  Mississippi Innocence Project.

February 2, 2011 In Mississippi, Levon Brooks and Kennedy Brewer, spent a combined 30 years in jail for crimes they didn't commit.

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Is The 'CSI Effect' Influencing Courtrooms?()  

Television shows like CSI provide an unrealistic view of the technology available to death investigators. In this photo from a recent episode of CSI:NY, characters Det. Josephine "Jo" Danville (Sela Ward) confers with Dr. Sheldon Hawkes (Hill Harper) and Dr. Sid Hammerback (Robert Joy) in their lab.

February 6, 2011 Many prosecutors complain that shows like CSI make their job harder, as jurors demand ultra-high-tech tests to convict suspects. But an investigation by NPR, PBS Frontline and ProPublica has exposed how death investigation in America is nothing like what you see on TV.

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