The Coroner’s office responds to calls 24 hours a day, seven-days a week to investigate and determine Cause and Manner of Death. Coroner Kerry Rooks investigates cases of homicide, suicide, accidental, undetermined and all sudden, unexpected or medically unattended natural deaths.
The Coroner’s office is charged by Georgia Law to determine the Cause and Manner of Death by an extensive investigation which may include a post-mortem examination. This investigation is independent of the sheriff, police, fire departments and Medical Examiner’s but is done in conjunction with those other entities. A post-mortem examination (autopsy) is ordered by the coroner only when it is vital in the determination of Cause and Manner of Death.
The coroner is required to investigate when a person dies:
- As a result of violence
- By suicide or casualty
- Suddenly when in apparent good health
- When unattended by a physician
- In any suspicious or unusual manner, with particular attention to those persons 16 years of age and under.
- After birth but before seven years of age if the death is unexpected or unexplained.
- As a result of an execution carried out pursuant to the death penalty
- When an inmate of a state hospital or a state, county, or city penal institution
- After having been admitted to a hospital in an unconscious state and without regaining consciousness within 24 hours of admission.
Autopsies are mandatory in the death is a child under the age of 7. Georgia law requires each county in the state to appoint a committee to develop local protocols to prevent child abuse. These "Child Abuse Protocol Committees" review unexpected or unexplained deaths of children under the age of 18, determine if any could have been prevented, and make recommendations to prevent future child deaths. The coroner serves on this committee.
Coroners may pronounce someone dead under certain conditions at the scene of death. Coroners must authorize a release of bodies before they can be cremated, transported across the state line or autopsied.
All coroners are required to attend a 40-hour course at the Georgia State Patrol Training Center in Forsyth and receive 24 hours of in service training each year on various death investigation procedures.
The Coroner's Office is part of the judicial system and has the power of subpoena. The coroner's office may conduct court in the form of an inquest to help determine cause of death and the outcome may be used for criminal procedures. The coroner is often called upon as a witness in criminal court.
The coroner is elected at large to four-year terms.
Interesting Facts and Myths
MYTH: The coroner cannot arrest the sheriff, but the coroner is the only person who can serve a warrant on the sheriff at the direction of the Probate Judge.
FACT: Until the late 1970s the Coroner had arresting powers as a constable.
MYTH: The coroner does not perform autopsies, they must be performed by a forensic pathologist.
FACT: The coroner is required to function as acting sheriff in the event the sheriff is unable to serve.