Coroner Tommy Davis Q&A

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - JACKIE GUTKNECHT jgutknecht@cov­news.com

What does the coroner do? What does the elected po­si­tion en­tail? The Cov­ing­ton News posed these ques­tions to New­ton County Coroner Tommy Davis in an ef­fort to help clar­ify the po­si­tion for the com­mu­nity.

Davis’ an­swers will be fea­tured in The News as a quar­terly se­ries. If you have any ques­tions you would like to have an­swered about the coroner’s of­fice, please email them to news@cov­news. com and they could be in­cluded in the next edi­tion of this se­ries. The News: What qual­i­fi­ca­tions are re­quired for a coroner? Davis: The law re­quires any­one run­ning for the of­fice of coroner to be a ci­ti­zen of the United States, a res­i­dent of the county for two years, a reg­is­tered voter, they must be 25 years old prior to the gen­eral pri­mary elec­tion, have a high school diploma or its equiv­a­lent and have not been con­victed of a felony or any of­fense of moral turpi­tude.

These are the sim­ple re­quire­ments when seek­ing most elected of­fices in the State of Ge­or­gia in­clud­ing the of­fices of Su­pe­rior Court Clerk, Tax Com­mis­sioner and other elected of­fices. The News: How many peo­ple are in­cluded in the Coroner’s staff?

Davis: Our coroner’s of­fice is staffed by my­self, as the elected coroner, and two deputy coro­ners. I have been with the coroner’s of­fice first as a deputy coroner in 2003 and then when Coroner Bob Wheeler re­tired I was first elected in 2008 and again in 2012 and 2016.

The deputy coro­ners are Steve Jones, who has been with the of­fice for six years, and Dr. Michael Grady, who has been with the of­fice for over a year. Both of these gentle­men bring a wealth of knowl­edge to the of­fice and are valu­able as­sets to all of New­ton County.

Deputy Coroner Jones is also a Bat­tal­ion Chief for the City of Cov­ing­ton Fire De­part­ment where he has worked for 30 years

and has been a cer­ti­fied Para­medic for 20 years. Deputy Coroner Grady is a re­tired physi­cian who has served our com­mu­nity for more than 30 years.

I, my­self, have been with the coroner’s of­fice for 14 years and have also been in the funeral busi­ness for 33 years. The News: If some­one is in­volved in an in­ci­dent lo­cally, trans­ported to an out-of-county hos­pi­tal or care cen­ter and later dies, does your of­fice still work the case?

Davis: Yes. The state law brings the in­ves­ti­ga­tion back to the county where the in­ci­dent oc­curred. For in­stance, if a traf­fic crash re­sults in an oc­cu­pant need­ing to be trans­ferred to a trauma cen­ter in At­lanta and dies af­ter they ar­rive there, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would re­turn to New­ton County and be in­ves­ti­gated by our of­fice along with the law en­force­ment agency such as New­ton County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice, Cov­ing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment or Ge­or­gia State Pa­trol as is the case with most se­ri­ous in­jury ac­ci­dents.

The same would oc­cur for any per­son that trans­ferred for any rea­son to any hos­pi­tal or like fa­cil­ity. Also, there is no time frame on this type of death ei­ther. If a per­son dies years later from an in­ci­dent that oc­curred here in

New­ton County the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would come back to our of­fice.

The News: Is the New­ton County Coroner put in charge of all of the deaths in the county, in­clud­ing those that take place in lo­cal hos­pi­tals or care cen­ters?

Davis: No. The coroner’s of­fice opens in­ves­ti­ga­tions in to only about 30 to 35 per­cent of all death that hap­pen here. There are typ­i­cally a lit­tle more than 700 or so death cer­tifi­cates is­sued in New­ton County ev­ery year and only 230 to 250 of those meet the cri­te­ria that re­quires the coroner’s of­fice to get in­volved. The Ge­or­gia Death In­ves­ti­ga­tion Act (O.C.G.A. 45-16-20) re­quires that the coroner or county med­i­cal ex­am­iner of the county where the body is found or the death oc­curs be no­ti­fied and that a med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s in­quiry be made in all deaths that oc­cur in this state that meets the fol­low­ing cri­te­ria: 1. As a re­sult of vi­o­lence; 2. By sui­cide or ca­su­alty; 3. Sud­denly when in ap­par­ent good health;

4. When unat­tended by a physi- cian; no per­son shall be deemed to have died unat­tended when the death oc­curred while the per­son was a pa­tient of a hospice li­censed un­der Ar­ti­cle 9 of Chap­ter 7 of Ti­tle 31 of the Ge­or­gia Code.

5. In any sus­pi­cious or un­usual man­ner, with par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to those per­sons 16 years of age and un­der;

6. Af­ter birth but be­fore seven years of age if the death is unex- pected or un­ex­plained;

7. As a re­sult of an ex­e­cu­tion car­ried out pur­suant to the im­po­si­tion of the death penalty un­der Ar­ti­cle 2 of Chap­ter 10 of Ti­tle 17;

8. When an in­mate of a state hos­pi­tal or a state, county, or city pe­nal in­sti­tu­tion; or

9. Af­ter hav­ing been ad­mit­ted to a hos­pi­tal in an un­con­scious state and with­out re­gain­ing con­scious­ness within 24 hours of ad­mis­sion.

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