Coroner has a two week deadline to provide information on cause of death


Send your questions to Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, or call (317) 624-4427.

The following questions were submitted by The Tribune (Seymour), Hoosier Media Group (Fowler), The Herald-Republican (Angola):

Coroner has a two week deadline to provide information on cause of death

Q: We had a murder in our town and the suspect died in jail while awaiting trial. I asked our county coroner for a cause of death a few days later, but he declined comment saying it would be “a few weeks at least” before anything would be determined. My question is he or our local health department under legal obligation to provide that information to us once available? And if so, how long can they put off providing it?

A: With the coroner involved in the investigation, he will be required to complete a coroner’s report that will include his conclusion as to the:

Cause of death
Manner of death, and
Mechanism of death.

As to a time frame, he will have a two-week deadline once he’s received all reports from outside labs – toxicology report, for example.

The county health department would be obligated to make available the certificate of death concerning the inmate, which would include the cause of death. I’m not sure whether the health department will receive that document immediately or after the coroner completes his investigation.

So you’ll need to keep in touch with the coroner as to when all the test results have been collected by his office, so that you’ll know when the report deadline goes into effect. I.C. 36-2-14-18 is the statute requiring the coroner’s report be made available to the public.

Editor opinions vary on accepting letters of endorsement prior to an election

Q: What’s the policy newspapers have on accepting endorsement letters prior to an election?

A: HSPA queried its member newspaper editors and here is a breakdown on the responses from 17 editors.

Five don’t accept that type of letter except as a paid ad (One of the five has a standard $25 charge for political letters.)
Twelve accept endorsement letters although most have limitations attached, such as:

Three with word limits from 250 to 600;
Six with deadlines — generally one week before election;
Two prohibit negative comments about an opponent; and
Two limit an author to one letter a month or election cycle.


Mayor’s arts, youth councils’ activities subject to Open Door Law

Q: I obviously intend to attend more Zoom meetings as I ask the following: Would an arts council or youth council appointed by the city executive, i.e., the mayor, be subject to the Indiana Open Door Law?

We have a Mayor’s Arts Council (or commission) and a Mayor’s Youth Advisory Board or Council or some such thing, and we never hear about their doings until they’re done or if we get invited to events. They obviously hold meetings.

Wondering if these fall under “(3) any committee appointed directly by the governing body or its presiding officer to which authority to take official action upon public business has been delegated. … and would be subject to the ODL?

A: I would concur with the response given by Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt who said: “I’d argue it would fall under one of these:

(b) “Governing body” means two (2) or more individuals who are:
(1) a public agency that:
(A) is a board, a commission, an authority, a council, a committee, a body, or other entity; and
(B) takes official action on public business;
(2) the board, commission, council, or other
body of a public agency which takes official action upon public business …”

“Probably #2, Britt said.”