Tarrant County defense attorneys on Tuesday asked commissioners for an outside investigation of the medical examiner’s office after a series of recent problems with autopsies that potentially compromise ongoing murder cases.
"We'd like to see an independent body look into them and the Texas Rangers sort of stand out as an independent state agency that could look into them,” said Benson Varghese, president of the Tarrant County Defense Lawyers Association.
In recent weeks, the problems have been piling up.
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Longtime Medical Examiner Dr. Nizam Peerwani found his top deputy, Dr. Marc Kraus, made 59 mistakes in death investigations last year. Kraus was barred from performing autopsies in murder cases in November and left the office just last week.
Then, a judge found Peerwani himself gave false and misleading testimony in a 2006 murder case that landed the defendant on death row.
"From our perspective and I'm speaking collectively as the defense bar, it's really unprecedented,” Varghese said.
Defense attorneys say the revelations potentially raise questions about the prosecution of murder cases – past and present.
"Everyone is beyond shocked that this could have happened and now it's going to be raised in every case where the Tarrant County Medical Examiner has touched the file,” Varghese said.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley sidestepped questions about what he plans to do about it.
"It is pending litigation so I guess at this point in time I'm going to have to decline any comment,” Whitley said.
The Dallas County District Attorney has been appointed a special prosecutor to look at cases involving Dr. Krause. Defense attorneys would also like to see that investigation expanded to include Dr. Peerwani and the entire office.
Peerwani did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.