Friday, January 31, 2014

Questionable Nebraska Autopsy Deserves Civil Trial

For over five years a Lincoln, Neb. day care provider felt she deserved an explanation for why she was wrongly accused of felony child abuse. She may now get her day in court.

A pathologist used over the years by a number of Nebraska law enforcement agencies will have to defend himself against accusations he botched an autopsy that lead to criminal charges being filed against a Lincoln women.   

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled today, Carla McKinney had sufficient cause to have her day in court.  

McKinney ran a day care out her home for more than 20 years.  In 2009  a 6-week-old infant died in her care.  Dr. Matthias I. Okoye performed an autopsy and determined the baby had died of “blunt force trauma to the head.”   The Lancaster County Attorney charged McKinney with felony child abuse resulting in death, but dropped the charges a year later. Medical experts she had hired discovered the baby had actually died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, rather than from any injury.  They found the doctor’s autopsy “shockingly” misrepresented the cause of the baby’s death. McKinney sued Okoye for malicious prosecution.  

Okoye successfully kept the case from going to trial in District Court.  Today, the Nebraska Supreme Court said McKinney should be allowed to present her case.  The Supreme Court justices felt there wasevidence of reckless disregard for established pathology procedures could lead to the inference that Okoye was unconcerned with establishing a truthful report.”   

The District Court judge who threw the case out, according to the high court, should have let the evidence be heard so a jury could have decided if Dr. Okoye had acted irresponsibility when he filed the autopsy report with the County Attorney.

The Lancaster County (Neb.) County Attorney's Office ended its contract with Okoye in  2009.  He still serves as president of the business he founded, the Nebraska Institute of Forensic Science.