Autopsies often form an important part of criminal cases. But they can be harrowing for families of the victims. Recently, a bill to allow parents to see the dead bodies of their children was discussed in the Texas legislature. It faltered.
The Texas Tribune reported on the case of Lara McDaniel whose 7-year-old son died in an accident. She was not allowed to see her son’s body for three days and an autopsy had been carried out in that time.
She said she wished she could have seen her son’s before he was cut open but an investigator would not allow it.
In March, McDaniel testified for House Bill 298. The legislation was intended to ensure parents could see their deceased child’s body under supervision before an autopsy was carried out by law enforcement.
The legislation would have given authorities the discretion to find out how much contact parents were able to make to head off concerns from police about evidence tampering in suspicious criminal cases.
The Tribune reported the House and Senate passed a version of the measure, but time ran out for the bill. A Senate version stalled in a House committee. A House version was referred to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.
Under present law, parents need permission from a medical examiner or a justice of the peace to view a deceased child when a death occurs outside a hospital or a health care institution. There is no provision in state law that allows parents the right to immediately see their child’s body.
McDaniel told the hearing that while hospital staff told her on numerous occasions for almost five hours that she could see her son, a detective said she couldn’t because the case was being investigated as a homicide and her son’s body had already been taken to the medical examiner’s office. The family was cleared of any wrongdoing after Child Protective Services investigated.
McDaniel said her grief was compounded when she was able to finally see her child.
She said bandages were holding his body together. She wasn’t allowed to hold him and his eyes and mouth were sewn shut. She said he was icily cold.
At the Medlin Law Firm, our criminal defense lawyer is well versed in all aspects of the criminal justice system.