Writer Question: Does my Homicide Detective Need to Attend an Autopsy?


March 4, 2013 by msashtonwriter

The detective in my book is trying to solve the murder of a male found shot and dumped in the lake. Do all detectives attend the autopsies of their victims or is it done on special circumstances only?

Joe Giacalone, blogger over at Cold Case Squad replied:

Yes. The case detective has to appear usually by 9AM the next morning on every dead body case to be present at the autopsy.

They’re in the room as it happens and will observe, ask questions and answer questions that the ME or Coroner may have.

It is important that they bring investigative reports, crime scene photos and collect any evidence that the ME finds. I.E. ballistics.


There will be another post on this topic over at Cold Case Squad. I’ll post the link here when it’s finished.

You can also find Joe on Twitter.

Joe GiacaloneJoe Giacalone is a retired Detective Sergeant and former Commanding Officer of the Bronx Cold Case Squad that has investigated hundreds of homicides, cold cases and missing persons.

He is the author of the Criminal Investigative Function: A Guide for New Investigators – 2nd Edition published by Looseleaf Law Publications, Inc.

4 thoughts on “Writer Question: Does my Homicide Detective Need to Attend an Autopsy?

  1. Depends. The state of North Carolina has a centralized Medical Examiner’s office in Chapel Hill, NC. Detectives do not attend autopsies here. It would take as much as six hours one way in some instances to attend autopsies.

  2. Hi Danielle,
    Every dead body in North Carolina goes to Chapel Hill for an autopsy? That doesn’t sound right, but you piqued my interest and will inquire.

  3. layton rutledge says:

    Does homicide detectives in Nebraska have to attend autopsy

    • Hi Layton,
      It is up to the individual police department policy. I would strongly encourage ever police department to have a mandated procedure that the case investigator arrive and participate in the autopsy for every suspicious death. This would avoid the classification of “Undetermined” and can also ensure that people do not get away with murder. I am developing some research just on this topic and matching it up with open and undetermined cases.

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