A doctor being considered to conduct autopsies for the Marion County coroner will have to persuade Indiana officials to grant her a temporary medical license because of her troubled past.
Marion County Coroner Kenneth Ackles declined to comment when asked Wednesday whether he was considering hiring Dr. Joye Carter or signing a contract with her.
But he wrote a letter Nov. 21 to the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, saying Carter's skills and experience would help the office function when Forensic Pathology Associates of Indiana stops conducting autopsies.
Carter has been a trailblazer as the nation's first black female chief medical examiner, a post she held for 10 years -- first in Washington, D.C., then in Houston's Harris County, which she left in 2002.
But she left behind battles with officials there, a fine by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners and two lawsuits by former employees who said they were fired for whistle-blowing . . .
Carter was lauded for modernizing Harris County's office and becoming an advocate for teen safety and awareness of deaths from heart-related causes and drug abuse.
But she also feuded publicly with police, prosecutors, county officials and her own staff over questions of the reliability of evidence in high-profile homicide cases and other issues.
She left her job in Washington in 1996 soon after The Washington Post
reported that conditions in the morgue rivaled Third World conditions, with drains clogged with blood, stacked bodies and inconsistent refrigeration that led to rotting corpses.
In 2001, the Texas board fined Carter $1,000 for allowing an unlicensed physician to perform autopsies in the office during a four-month period. Carter agreed to the order but said at the time that lawyers had advised her autopsies didn't require a medical license in Texas.
One year earlier, she had narrowly avoided losing her job when Harris County Commissioners split 3-2 against firing her. A majority of the doctors in the office issued a statement calling for her dismissal for the license issue and for attracting two lawsuits against the county.
In those suits, former employees alleged they were fired for speaking out about office abuses. One judgment in favor of a pathologist was overturned on appeal, but in the other suit, the county settled with a former DNA lab director for $375,000 . . .
While the Star's story notes that Carter has visited the Marion Co. Coroner's office and staff, and that her license application is supported by Ackles, it does not confirm whether she's been offered a job; however, if the Star's reporters had done a little more digging, they would have learned that Carter has interviewed potential candidates to work as pathology assistants in the office. Although Ackles' plan to hire Carter was first reported on Indiana Barrister and AI, this story and none of the other stories by the local mainstream media acknowledge how they first learned about the controversial forensic pathology candidate. As the Star's editor Dennis Ryerson is fond of saying, the blogs are just "noise." As long as the mainstream media is relying on the "noise" for its news stories, it should do a little more digging on the relationship between the Marion Co. Coroner's office and Indiana Autopsy. It should prove newsworthy.