A New Oklahoma Law Gives Families Hope

A new law went into effect recently that will allow families to appeal a death ruling by the medical examiner's office.

Tuesday, November 22nd 2011, 6:13 pm

By: News On 6

A new law went into effect recently that will allow families to appeal a death ruling by the medical examiner's office.

It's called the Chanda Turner Reform Act and says families can go to court if they feel a death was wrongly classified.

Chanda Turner was killed by gunshot. Her boyfriend claimed it was suicide and he slept through it, even though there was blood all over the house, including the mattress where he claimed to be sleeping.

The police report also noted he had scratches and she was covered in bruises and furniture was overturned. No autopsy was done and the Medical Examiner ruled it a suicide.

Chanda Turner's family was so sure her death was not a suicide, they buried her in a sealed casket, in a sealed crypt in hopes someday an autopsy would be performed and nine years later, it was.

Even after two pathologists ruled her death a homicide, the ME's office refused to change its ruling of suicide. Their fight led to Senate Bill 250, which says families can appeal an ME's death ruling to district court.

Chanda's family isn't the only one who will be appealing under the new law, at least 16 other families will too, including Kathy Page.

"No family, no child, should have to go through the hell my family has gone through," Kathy said.

Her son, Curtis Prescott, was found dead of a single shotgun blast to the head in 2008 in front of his Mayes County home. The deputy told the ME it was likely a suicide and that's how it was ruled.

There was no autopsy, no interviews of those who last talked to him, and no investigating the neighbor who'd just moved in with a rap sheet of burglary and murder.

Kathy says the shell casing from Curtis' first shot was never collected and that's not all.

"The gun still had the shell casing in it when I received it back from police that was supposed to be the lethal shot. They never even removed the shell casing from the gun," she said.

Kathy hired a private investigator who had the gun tested and it miss-fired easily, which could've happened if Curtis tripped on his way to check on something suspicious next door or during a struggle.

Kathy wants the death certificate changed. There's nothing to gain financially because there was no insurance. She just wants the truth.

The problems at the ME's office have been well publicized. A grand jury said the ME's office was either blind or incompetent. The Funeral Directors Association questioned the integrity of the office's death certificates, and there's been a revolving door of hiring's and firings in recent years.

The Chanda Turner Act says the burden is on the family to show the ME's ruling is wrong. If the court agrees, the ME must change its ruling


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