The Coroner investigates all sudden, natural, and violent deaths in the County, which appear to be accidental, homicidal, or suicidal to determine the cause and manner of death.
At her discretion, she may summon a jury composed of six persons of legal age and conduct an inquest into the cause and manner of death. The purpose of the inquest is to present pertinent information concerning the victim's death in order for the jury to arrive at a cause and manner of death. The cause of death is often readily apparent and obvious based on the facts, circumstances, medical evidence, and in some cases toxicology and autopsy results. The real essence of the juror's responsibility is to establish the manner of death (suicide, homicide, accident, natural or undetermined.)
Historically, the functions of the coroner are as follows:
- The coroner serves as a check and balance upon law enforcement officials.
- The coroner is involved in the matter of public safety.
- The coroner plays a very important role in the area of preventive medicine.
- The most important role played by the coroner is in the area of crime prevention. The coroner, by screening every unnatural death, can and often uncovers homicides that might otherwise pass unnoticed or be attributed to accidents, death caused by fire, etc.
- Public inquiry by the coroner serves the purpose of fixing legal responsibility. The coroner can and often does unearth facts that can be used to obtain benefits under statutory programs or private contracts. Such things as Worker's Compensation benefits and double indemnity under contracts of insurance might not become available to surviving widows and children without the activities of the coroner.